A Voluntary Year
Das freiwillige Jahr
Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema | High School Outreach
With the unrelenting momentum of a screwball comedy, this captivating character study chronicles 24 hours in the lives of Jette (Maj-Britt Klenke), a recent high school graduate bound for volunteer service in Costa Rica, and Urs (Sebastian Rudolph), her overbearing father. When Jette skips her flight in order to squat with her boyfriend in a caravan, Urs and the boy’s mother embark on a manhunt to reprimand the strays. What ensues is an unforgettable cautionary tale about parenting and its, shall we say, necessary limits.
To describe A Voluntary Year as an amusing story about an aloof teenager and her overly concerned father would only give you the half of it. As Urs sheds his veneer of civility as the day wears on, so too does this deceptively masterful film shapeshift from a relatively low-stakes comedy of errors into something more profound, poignant, and ultimately disturbing.
Working on a small scale that belies the stature of their accomplishments, co-directors Ulrich Köhler (In My Room, VIFF 18) and Henner Winckler prove themselves incisive observers of human behaviour who wisely refuse to pull any of their film’s acutely felt punches.
"There are shades of Maren Ade’s masterly Toni Erdmann in Voluntary Year’s nuanced depiction of a fraught father-daughter relationship, and also in the way the filmmakers play the long game when it comes to delivering comic payoffs." - Paul O’Callaghan, Slant