Lorenz Meran is a successful middle-aged gay writer who is struggling with writer’s block when he gets called back home after his elderly mother has a stroke.
Rosie is a feisty old bird and unlike Lorenz and his perpetually unhappy sibling Sophie, she seems to be the one member of this family who likes to have some fun. A little too much now given the fragile state of her health but whatever happens, she is determined not to give up chain smoking or even admit to the fact that she is an alcoholic.
The parental home is a small town in eastern Switzerland, a far cry from Lorenz’s hedonistic life in Berlin of one-night stands that he chronicles in his novels, but as his mother’s health declines he very reluctantly finds himself back in the house he never thought he would ever have to live in again. He does, however, have a diversion one night when he has an ‘encounter’ with Mario a grandson of his mother’s friend, but as he dresses and prepares to leave the next morning he discovers that the boy had actually been a big fan of his work for some time. So without discussing it at all, Lorenz panics and hastily dashes off telling a startled Mario that he would never have had sex with him if he had known he was just a groupie.
The plot unravels slowly as the family are hesitantly drawn together by their mother’s decline, and Sophie has to finally deal with her own failing marriage, and both siblings make the startling discovery that it wasn’t in fact their mother who had been having ‘affairs’ when they were young as they had always suspected, but it had been their overbearing and distant father, now long dead. And all his lovers were in fact men.
Jaded Lorenz’s humor never seems to lighten as he tries to deal with his impatient Literary Agent from afar, and with sullen Chantal a young neighbor of his mother’s who he suspects is supplying Rosie with alcohol. If that is not enough, at his mother’s insistence, Mario turns up to help doing oddjobs about the house.
And then just when you are about to despair about this family, Rosie reluctantly but with her usual style, decides to make a go of living in the Seniors home that they forced her into, Sophie gets back with her estranged husband for another reconciliation, and Lorenz stops being angry and suspicious of the world just in time to realise that the long term love of his life that he has always wanted is actually there on his doorstep in the shape of Mario. And to top it all, his writer’s block disappears as he sets about writing his latest novel based on Rosie, and the ‘triangle’ he discovered when he explored his father’s past.
The movie is the latest work of Swiss gay filmmaker Marcel Gisler (who like Lorenz was born in Altstätten and works in Berlin, however I could not establish if this is an autobiographical piece). Gisler’s movie output is infrequent at best… the last one was 14 years ago… his usual fare are more explicitly gay and complicated, and this one is definitely his most refined and subtlest. Lorenz’s long struggle for happiness is finally determined by resolving the questions that arise from the troubling nightmares he still has about his father, and from being able to accept and enjoy the love of his family simply for what it is.
It all works… albeit a little drawn out… not just because of the script with its scattered passages of dark humour, but also because of the two excellent central performances. The veteran Swiss Actress Sibylle Brunner, in her first ever leading role, is rightly picking up awards for her devastatingly wonderful turn as Rosie, and Swiss actor Fabian Krüger is pitch perfect as the dour faced Lorenz who waits until the last reel to smile.
This movie is being hailed in some quarters as New Swiss Cinema and worthy of a world audience. I’m not sure if I really knew much about ‘Old Swiss Cinema ‘to make any comment, other than to say it definitely is well-worth seeing.
A Man, His Lover And His Mother is Available to buy on DVD from Amazon