Lara and Nora are German architecture students in their mid-20s that seem more interested in partying and slacking about in general. It also seems like they’re slightly more than best friends. When Nora hooks up with their teacher, that Lara was interested in, Lara, in a fit of jealousy, has sex with a bartender and ends up pregnant.
From that description one might infer that Breaking Horizons (Am Himmel der Tag) wouldn’t go in the direction that it does. Instead of a quirky indie drama we get a much darker film as the pregnancy takes its toll on Lara. She grows reclusive from her already small social circle and ends up endangering herself.
The film’s main driving force is an amazing performance by Aylin Tezel, who bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Noomi Rapace. Her transition from party girl to depressed potential mother is integral to the film’s success and she absolutely nails it. Without her the film would’ve fallen apart. That’s not to say that the supporting cast doesn’t do good work, but it’s never more than that: Good.
There’s a certain lack of characterization beyond Lara, it’s not that motivations aren’t clear there’s just not a whole lot to the rest of the characters. Nora (Henrike von Kuick) and Lara’s slightly sapphic relationship never feels properly explained and comes off more as an excuse to have two beautiful women kiss. The film even opens on a, very tastefully shot mind you, scene of them kissing.
There’s also some heavy-handed symbolism, the best example being a scene where Lara rides the train home from a family event wearing a white mask with her name written on it. That hits you over the head with the fact that she’s not being forthcoming with everyone around her, a fact already quite clear. It actually could’ve been quite subtle, as in the scene directly before it she’s seen holding the mask with no real attention called to it. Leaving it at that would’ve been much more effective.
Breaking Horizons is made in what could be called a traditional indie style, lots of handheld (but not shaky) cinematography and use of shallow focus. It’s nice to look at and does have one very distinct visual trademark, a handful of times throughout the film director Pola Schirin Beck opts for long takes with the camera slowly drawing near the subject. It’s supremely subtle as you barely notice it but it acts to draw you into the experience.
The music in the film bears mentioning because it’s universally fantastic, both the moody, post-rock inspired score as well as the licensed club music.
Final Verdict: Breaking Horizons is a good drama, but not transcendental to the degree that the title might hope for, but in a dark, roundabout way it’s about how you can’t always get what you want, a worthwhile lesson. See it for the breakout central performance and fantastic music.