Review: Vamos a la playa
by Marta Bałaga
- In her new dramedy, Bettina Blümner warmly welcomes you to the world of cringe
Bettina Blümner’s sun-drenched film Vamos a la playa [+see also:
interview: Bettina Blümner
film profile] – which world-premiered at Zurich and is now heading to the Cologne Film Festival – fully embraces the awkward. It’s the kind of awkward that comes from a lethal combination of privilege and good intentions, as well as age, as her protagonists go to Cuba to, well, save and exploit.
They don’t know how to go about either one of these tasks, however. A boy (Jakub Gierszał) wants to help a local family out by buying everything they point out in a store. A girl (Victoria Schulz) tries to see if she could be a sex tourist, too, offering guys cash if they – and this is not a metaphor for something unseemly – just finish eating their salad. Both of them are pretending to be someone they’re not, someone powerful and in control. But it’s their father’s money that they keep throwing around, and other people can see right through them, it seems.
Not every storyline is fully developed or brought to a satisfying conclusion, but Blümner captures that well, that sense of entitlement mixed with a desire to help. It’s cringe comedy but also a coming-of-age story, because all of these merry travellers – including their friends (Leonard Scheicher and Maya Unger), trying to see if they could be more than that – come to realise who they really are. In most cases, it’s not what they expected at all. Maybe not even what they like.
With the help of co-writer Daniel Nocke, Blümner approaches her protagonists’ sexuality and physicality with ease – sex is on everyone’s mind, and the sizzling temperatures aren’t helping, but satisfying encounters are hard to come by. Her young actors are game, fully embracing the longing and the obnoxiousness, as no one is likeable here, and everyone seems to have an agenda. This place really does look like paradise sometimes, with its sandy beaches, but make no mistake – everyone is out, hustling.
“This youth is completely lost,” commented one Zurich audience member on the festival’s website after the screening, rather dramatically. Of course they are, and who wasn’t back then? They are busy playing adults, with the money they don’t actually have, finally free to explore what they (think they) want and how far they can go. With all the soul-searching, misguided charity and petty jealousies, Vamos a la playa serves as a good reminder that going on holidays, especially with other people, can be truly exhausting. Cancel that flight, now.
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