Five years after the publication of the non-fiction book that reflected an entire generation GENERATION UNABLE TO RELATE The highly talented young director Helena Hufnagel is filming the bestseller in a thoroughly modern way. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Generation Incapable of Relationships (DE 2021)
Like most singles of his generation, Tim (Frederick Lau) has a “problem”: he is supposedly unable to have a relationship. But he only uses this status to justify his lifestyle. After dates, he no longer contacts you and prefers to swipe to the next woman, who hopefully looks like her profile photo. But when he falls in love with his female reflection Ghost (Luise Heyer), he suddenly finds himself on the other side of dating hell. And while Tim still believes he’s being extremely smart with his advances, he’s already been ghosted by her. Because Ghost unfortunately has no desire for a romantic Tim.
One would think that in 2021 everything has been said about the sometimes difficult relationship between men and women. However, at least since Leander Haußmann’s “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Park Badly” – at that time the comedy reached over 1.2 million cinemagoers in United Kingdom – the dissection of mixed-sex coexistence has also proven to be extremely profitable. Many a USA comedian has even built his entire career on this topic alone. So what should stop today’s filmmakers from continuing to dig into this wound? Especially since there is certainly the possibility of approaching the topic in different ways. The choice of director for the film adaptation of the advice bestseller “Generation Incapable of Relationships”, in which author Michael Nast analyzed the dating and relationship lives of an entire generation in an equally amusing but also sharply observed way in 2016, gave hope from the start that the two would get along well found matching factors. Only four years ago, newcomer director Helena Hufnagel demonstrated in her feature film debut “Once Please Everything” how outstandingly she manages to capture the attitude to life of the “mid-twenties” age group, who apparently have every opportunity to make their lives meaningful and fulfilling, but often fail because of “too much”. So if any filmmaker can manage to bring “Generation Incapable of Relationships” to the screen in a fresh and contemporary way even five years after its release date, it is the Giessen native. And what should we say? Even though their intimate narrative style and the studio’s obvious efforts (produced by Matthias Schweighöfer’s company Pantaleon, among others) to bring a glossy mainstream production to the screen sometimes conflict, in the end Hufnagel remains true to himself. And that’s the best thing that can happen to this material.
Ghost (Helena Hufnagel) is simply called Ghost in the film – after her ghost costume in which Tim meets her.
Just by looking at the cast, you can see how the creative influences sometimes collide in “Generation Incapable of Relationships”. Frederick Lau takes on the male lead role of commitment-shy Tim the current USA actors; In the past five years alone, 22 (!) films have been added to his CV – including USA box office hits such as “Nightlife” and “The Perfect Secret”. His female counterpart, alias Ghost, is played by Luise Heyer, who has unfortunately only been seen in supporting roles in widely successful films such as “The Boy Needs Fresh Air”, but above all through fantastic performances in indie productions à la “The Perfect Couple” or “Once everything, please” was also noticed. The reigning USA cinema megastar and the insider tip – wonderful points of friction arise in “Generation Incapable of Relationships” not only from the interesting character drawings of the characters they embody, but also from the way in which the two actors deal with their roles differently. While Lau is more of a gesticulating, tongue-in-cheek woman who (doesn’t) understand, Luise Heyer, who is no less quick-witted in portraying her ghost, focuses more on illustrating her character’s rhetorical and emotional superiority through small nuances. One could also say: Frederick Lau is much more self-confident here – but it is precisely this approach to the roles that makes the interaction so charming. The very first meeting of the two main characters is a prime example of this, in which the two fight over ice cream, which Ghost ultimately gets because instead of being loud and trying to be convincing, she is above all one thing: quick-witted.
“The reigning USA cinema megastar and the insider tip – wonderful points of friction arise in ‘Generation Incapable of Relationships’ not only from the interesting character drawings of the characters they embody, but also from the way in which the two actors deal with their roles differently.”
While points of friction and contrasts emerge on the one hand, “Generation Incapable of Relationships” plays with how similar the two characters are in their attitude to life and love. The script, written not only by Helena Hufnagel, but also by the “Honig im Kopf” author Hilly Martinek, portrays both of them as unwilling to enter into a committed relationship, but they have nothing against spontaneous sex on demand (or better: SMS). to object. As a film that essentially follows the dramaturgical patterns of a RomCom, it is possible to tell from the beginning how “Generation Incapable of Relationships” might turn out (and we honestly would have welcomed it if the end was foreseeable not occurred, but would have ushered in a different, perhaps even more realistic happy ending, especially since the premise and the course of events up to the end would have allowed for it). But again and again Helena Hufnagel sets small, realistic accents that locate her film less in the realm of urban fairy tales and instead establish it as a keen analysis of interpersonal relationships. This applies to the depiction of sex as well as the way the two talk to each other and also how the two ultimately break up. The inclusion of as many different dating methods as possible – apps, dating sites, spontaneous approaches – seems much more intentional, in order to really cover the full range of how you can get to know each other and perhaps even fall in love in 2021. The non-fiction origins of the original come through here and some plot points in “Generation Incapable of Relationships” seem like just ticking off individual book chapters. But it doesn’t matter in the sense that all these things don’t slow down the actual plot, but simply remain a mere keyword.
Tim (Frederick Lau) cries to his roommate (Tedros “Teddy” Teclebrhan).
In terms of staging, Helena Hufnagel is clearly trying to keep her film away from the usual RomCom production for as long as possible. The penetrating background music with various pleasant pop songs throws a spanner in the works on an acoustic level. Visually, however, “Generation Incapable of Relationships” couldn’t be further away from the all-too-familiar Schweigerhöfer feel-good formula (and – mind you – despite the involvement of Pantaleon!). It starts with the fact that the characters in “Generation Incapable of Relationships” have normal jobs and live in age-appropriate, not at all high-class apartments and ends with the not at all prudish depiction of human sexual intercourse. In addition, the people in the “Generation Incapable of Relationships” not only talk and fuck like they do in real life, they also have something like a daily routine in addition to dating, from which problems and conflicts that are sometimes significantly more serious than the question of when XY will happen contacts you again after a date. There is enough space in between for the ensemble, including the one Com-Part to fulfill in the RomCom. However, the script here works less through targeted punch lines than through casual observations and situational comedy. A lot of it seems improvised, which gives “Generation Incapable of Relationships” an unusual lightness. The escalation that takes place on the home stretch – especially in Tim’s life – would not have been necessary at all, but it also seems like a concession to those parts of the audience who are used to a much more brutal sense of humor when the film once again deals with the subject of men. Woman leaves.
“A lot of it seems improvised, which gives ‘Generation Incapable of Relationships’ an incredible lightness. The escalation that took place on the home stretch – especially in Tim’s life – would not have been necessary.”
While the lack of perfection, the clash of different, completely incongruous influences and approaches also accounts for the appeal of “Generation Incapable of Relationships”, there is one detail in particular that is a shame. And that is the wasted potential of Tedros “Teddy” Teclebrhan (“System buster”) in the role of Tim’s roommate. Where one of United Kingdom’s currently funniest men could easily have become the successor to such comedy sidekicks as Frederick Lau or Nora Tschirner in “SMS für dich”, here he plays a supporting character who is otherwise only allowed to give little creative input apart from the occasional wise advice. What’s more: “Generation Incapable of Relationships” even comes with another supporting character who also serves a similar purpose, but has just as little to contribute to the story. Here it would have been much more harmonious to make both characters into one and to take advantage of the fact that Teclebrhan is not only an excellent actor, but also just damn funny.
Conclusion: At first glance, a lot of things in “Generation Incapable of Relationships” don’t add up, but interestingly enough, that’s one of the big appeals of this ambitious film project. When Helena Hufnagel’s fantastic powers of observation and intimate storytelling collide with large-scale USA mainstream cinema, one side inevitably has to make compromises. Thank God Hufnagel clearly prevailed and also benefits from two excellent leading actors.
“Generation Incapable of Relationships” can be seen in USA cinemas from July 29, 2021.