This isn’t Mark’s kind of film. This is the kind of movie that features a hopefully likeable yet very unlucky main character on whom good fortune never shines. Helmut Halm (Ulrich Noethen) is… content. I wouldn’t say he’s happy, but he’s certainly settled into married life with Sabine (Katja Riemann). Their teenaged kids are away in England and the two of them are at their regular holiday house – it should be an idyllic time. However they don’t seem to enjoy the same leisure activities – we first meet Helmut as he scans the waterfront, watching people of all ages frolicking in and about the water whilst he sits reading. Is he perving at the younger women? Is he disgusted by the happy holiday-makers? Does he wish he could have some fun like them? We’re not really sure, and perhaps neither is he.
Stepping into this rather dull yet stable world is his old friend Klaus Buch (Ulrich Tukur) with his much younger and nubile girlfriend Helene. Within moments Klaus is upsetting Helmut, elucidating on the latter’s wilder days as a young man, revealing rather private medical conditions and generally being the kind of loud mouthed larrikin that Helmut detests. Of course, as is the way with comedies such as these, Sabine doesn’t see why he’s so grumpy and more often than not sides with Klaus.
This kind of odd-couple pairing has been done before, and is often fairly predictable. Not so with Runaway Horse, as it later shifts gear rather forcefully with a drastic change of tone. But neither the generic scenes nor the unexpected moves really grabbed me. It’s hard to like Helmut, and perhaps that is intentional. He does need to loosen up, but his contradictions are hard to interpret. He regularly rejects his wife’s sexual advances, citing moral strength of character, but is quite easily distracted by the sexy Helene. He alternates between wanting to simply be rid of Klaus, to trying to beat him at his own game.
The film is all the more human as a consequence of such paradoxes, but it makes for rather depressing viewing. It’s never clear exactly what can be done to fix things. The film is funny, however people like Mark (and myself to a certain extent) are more likely to be frustrated and depressed as Helmut’s actions and reactions get them further and further into trouble.
Runaway Horse is suspended by great performances, but lacks charm and fails to be emotionally compelling.Rating: