Austrian drama The Ground Beneath My Feet (Der Boden unter den Füßen) explores the cracks in a meticulously constructed life that does not go to plan. Lola’s actions in the face of a ruthless corporate ladder and her older sister’s schizophrenia are not always likeable, but actress Valerie Pachner and writer-director Marie Kreutzer foreground the brutality of her inner conflict; tight shots of her face and eyes allow viewers to glimpse the driven protagonist’s hidden doubts and fears.

Refreshingly, in a film largely set among business consultants the most fleshed out characters are women. The central conflict exists between Lola and Connie – or more accurately Connie’s paralysing illness, creating an ever-changing dynamic. Lola’s boss Elise has the most screen time and superiority in their client office, as well as being the protagonist’s headstrong lover, and their colleague Bridgit acts as the voice of reason and empathy when Lola begins to lose her grip on her life. While all three mask traces of vulnerability behind long hours and stern faces, the exhaustion of this effort is tangible. The men are more two-dimensional, often showing the worst of chauvinistic businessmen stereotypes and creating uncomfortable comic relief.

Despite Lola’s cutthroat ambition and borderline unhealthy work ethic, Kreutzer respects her life and choices while showing the toll that this new burden of caregiving takes on an already unbalanced life – something her colleagues, male or female, are not yet dealing with. The only detriment is an uneven tone which dances between a psychological thriller and family drama.

The Ground Beneath My Feet captures the taxing realities of mental illness on those affected and their carers without sentimentality or sugarcoating. The resulting portrait of loneliness exudes compassion without making excuses for the characters. There is no closure when the credits begin, but there is hope.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Valerie Pachner, Pia Hierzegger, Mavie Hörbiger, Michelle Barthel, Marc Benjamin

DIRECTOR: Marie Kreutzer

WRITER: Marie Kreutzer

SYNOPSIS: An ambitious, disciplined career woman re-evaluates her life and relationships following her sister’s suicide attempt.

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