Austrian writer/director Marie Kreutzer tells the story of workaholic Lola and the familial and romantic relationships she keeps hidden. A blend of personal drama and psychological thriller (without many thrills), The Ground Beneath My Feet is a twisty take on a woman figuring out her work/life balance. (BKP: 3/5)
Review by Vice President and Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky
Valerie Pachner is the perfect Lola. Instantly “likable,” although that word has negative connotations these days. But she is. Lola is a woman in all of our lives, working herself to the bone and passing on the office birthday cake because it’s 600 calories a slice. Specifically, Lola is a consultant, constantly on-the-go in the business world, checking into hotels, working out vigorously before donning a sleek pencil skirt and pinning her back for the board meeting.
Underneath the perfectly dry-cleaned exterior is a deep layer of secrets that Lola keeps close to the vest. Her older sister Conny, for one, has a long history of mental illness and has been re-hospitalized for another attempted suicide. Dealing with her schizophrenic sister is only one thing on her to-do list – keeping her relationship with her boss, Elise, a secret from her co-workers. But as these intense, problematic matters weigh on her shoulders, Lola becomes emotionally unraveled throughout Kreutzer’s “thriller.”
To this viewer, the thrills came in seeing Lola’s relationship with her sister and the relatable notion that you can’t pick your family. Balancing a relative’s illness with the stresses of everyday work life is something Kreutzer examines and one that Pachner exudes through her stellar leading performance opposite Pia Hierzegger (as Conny).
Rounding out the mostly female cast is Mavie Hörbiger as Lola’s boss and girlfriend, Elise. The graphic depiction of their sex life seemed to be used to show Lola’s drastically different private life than her buttoned-up public persona. The stark contrast does, in fact, get that point across.
Kreutzer’s story and Pachner’s delivery was more psychological than thriller, in general. The setting is unsettling, sure, with steely conference rooms and airports, sterile hotels and bare white apartment walls. They become characters on their own while adding to Lola’s. But when the story succeeds in holding your attention, it does so during its character-driven moments – not in the shock-value of nudity, sex and scares, but in the themes of a personal, internal unraveling.
There’s a reason Don Draper was so appealing to audiences in the Golden Age of television. Viewers like vulnerability masked in a hard shell. While not exactly the same story as Mad Men, the story of The Ground Beneath My Feet takes a similar look a hardworking individual holding onto personal burdens until the weight is too heavy to bear alone.
© Brigid K. Presecky (7/24/19) FF2 Media
Photos: The Ground Beneath My Feet
Photo credits: Strand Releasing
Q: Does The Ground Beneath My Feet pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?