In 1981, film star Romy Schneider (Marie Bäumer) travelled to an exclusive spa in Quiberon with the plan to get sober, since she had increasingly been spending her days drinking heavily and popping pills, not to mention all those cigarettes she chainsmokes can't be doing her health any good either. The reason she wants to get straight is her fourteen-year-old son David, who is threatening to move in with his stepfamily since his mother plainly cannot look after herself, never mind him, but she is determined to prove him wrong. Recently, she has lost a son and is suffering enormous guilt and grief - can she get over that to see about improving her record of getting over addiction?
Marie Bäumer had spent her entire career being compared to Romy Schneider since they looked so much alike, so it cannot have been too much of a stretch for director Emily Atef to cast her as the star in this biopic, one of those biopics that took a short span of time from the subject's life and used it as a focal point to make observations on their entire existence. It was reminiscent of Gus Van Sant's not-Kurt Cobain account Last Days, where the lead up to tragedy was played out in a low key fashion, yet while that ultimately failed when the director's choices of what to portray came across as perverse, Atef knew precisely what to depict to open up Romy's own last days.
The event she chose was her final interview, where she was brutally honest to journalists from Stern magazine and caused a controversy as a consequence as the public were torn between the fantasy image of her pure in heart Sissi character which had made her famous in the first place back in the fifties, and the reality of a deeply troubled woman who had never learned to cope with her celebrity. Bad things insisted on happening to Schneider, either through her poor choices or those actions of those around her: she had already buried a husband who had taken his own life a while back, and though this film is coy about saying what happened to her in the end, most believe it was suicide.
Bäumer had a pretty major task to fulfil here, as many of the German audiences who would be keen to see this would be scrutinising her performance as she could have been judged as comparing herself to the deceased actress. Yet she managed to bring a degree of dimensions to the part that didn't lapse into caricature, thankfully, and also avoided cliché despite the tale of a celebrity coming undone and venturing onto the path of self-destruction being one which was not going to go away any time soon. Although her Romy was flighty in her emotions, we could tell by this that whenever she appeared upbeat on the outside, her inside was not necessarily going to match it, and she might have needed people around her to stave off loneliness, but it was also down to her not able to trust herself not to do anything stupid while alone.
When David does call her on the telephone in the film's latter stages, she panics and insists her childhood friend Hilde Fritsch (Brigit Minichmayr) answer him and say she's not in: we immediately wonder if this is sane behaviour, a mother too scared to speak with the son she says she wants to keep by her. The journalists are little help either, the writer (Robert Gwisdek) keen to secure some kind of scoop regardless of the effect on Romy - though he suffers his own guilt when he sees how much damage this could do to her all for the sake of boosting circulation figures - and the photographer (Charly Hübner) snaps away at a woman just about snapping herself, psychologically, even going to the extent of sleeping with her simply because she cannot bear to spend a night alone lest she descend into a drink-induced stupor solo. Denis Lavant appeared as a poet who the foursome meet in a bar, a nice extended cameo, and it was painfully well acted, but it was Bäumer's show really, completely convincing as a vulnerable adult headed for an early grave. Not a barrel of laughs, then, but with a seductively intimate tone that held the attention, since we are all fascinated by doomed celebrities after the fact. Music by Christoph Kaiser and Julian Maas.