We are Next of Kin (2022) Rotterdam Film Festival 2023

February 1st, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Hans Christian Schmid | Cast: Cast: Claude Heinrich, Adina Vetter, Justus von Dohnanyi, Hans Low, Yorck Dippe, Enno Trebs, Fabian Hinrichs, Philipp Hauss | Drama 118’

The aftermath of an abduction is seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy unimpressed by the bungled attempts of those entrusted to bring his father back in this sober domestic-centred drama from seasoned German director Hans Christian Schmid.

Jan Philipp Reemtsma was kidnapped in 1996, and the film is based on his son Johann Scheerer’s autobiographical novel that views the world through his burgeoning adolescent experience of adults in authority struggling to cope with their own infallibilities.

Johann (Claude Heinrich) is clearly in awe but also resentful of his father (Philipp Hauss), an accomplished academic who is clearly disappointed in his unruly teenage son. The opening scenes of We Are Next of Kin picture a typical scenario with a father trying to drum some sense into a boy who is more keen on playing in a band that focusing on his schoolwork.

Jan’s subsequent kidnapping is a subdued off-screen affair and Johann then witnesses his mother Kathrin (a steely Adina Vetter) and the family solicitor Schwenn (Justus von Dohnanyi) putting their heads together to work out what do in the face of the large ransom demanded by the abductors. Their efforts are supported when two special branch detectives Vera (Yorck Dippe) and Nickel (Enno Trebs) come on board with their ‘specialist’ negotiating skills.

From then on the drama turns on the fraught psychological and strategic aspects of the kidnapping with the focus on human error rather than the event itself, Jan’s whereabouts and circumstances remaining rather shady in a abduction that took place before the advent of the internet and today’s technological advances.

There’s a traditional feel to proceedings with old-fashioned ransom notes and letters being the kidnap ‘currency’ rather than mobile ‘phone messages and texts. Although there are some tense scenes, the film’s measured pacing reflects the often stark reality of the kidnap situation for the family and their advisors left to suffer the quietly devastating emotional toll of being controlled and menaced by an unknown outside force and to endure interminable delays while progress is made, or not.

Gradually Johann sees his father transform from a doughty figure of authority to a vulnerable human being desperate for help in this unusual kidnapping and rights of passage drama. MT






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