Rumspringa is a German-language Netflix Original directed by Mira Thiel and written by Theil, Nika Heinrich, and Oskar Minkler. Our dear main character Jacob (Jonas Holdenrieder) sets off on his Rumspringa, the Amish rite of passage where he travels to Berlin in search of his family’s roots. What he finds instead is something else entirely.
More than anything, Rumspringa is a rare movie about an emotionally complex male friendship. And that alone made this movie truly wonderful to watch. When Jacob arrives in Berlin, first, he misplaced his sack in somebody else’s taxi and is left with only a card with a QR code to locate her by. Not that he knows what a QR code is. Second, he happens upon a man who he mistakes for Amish given the beard and hat he sports, Alf (Timur Bartels). When first they meet, Alf is pretty rude to Jacob and only winds up offering Jacob help because the girl he’s having sex with, Freja (Tijan Marei) convinces him to.
But what develops from there is just beautiful. The two go through an emotional journey together where both characters learn from each other. Not just the ways of each others’ worlds. Of course, there are the requisite moments where Jacob drinks and breaks all his Amish rules, and Alf is briefly emasculated by his inability to chop down a tree whereas Jacob is an expert. I can’t speak to the accuracy or sensitivity with which Amish life is depicted, but it certainly lends itself to very funny moments several times over.
But no, the real heart of their mutual mentorship is in the heart. The two begin the movie in similar emotional places. They’re lost in life, unsure of who they are on their own, in relation to others, and what their purpose is meant to be. So it’s through their bonding that both grow to better understand their love lives, their futures, their friendship, and themselves.
I can’t stress enough how endearing and lovely it is to watch two male characters have this type of journey together. There’s no queer bating or attempt to make light of their relationship and their emotions. The whole movie serves to simply celebrate and uplift the two main characters’ relationship with each other and the way that their relationship helps them both open up about difficult and important parts of their lives. The plot itself is rife with nice parallels between the two stories when it comes to fathers, lovers, and passion.
The only shortcoming I found was in Alf and Freja’s relationship. While on paper I totally appreciate the journey the two take, until the final moments, I didn’t really find their relationship particularly interesting to watch or emotionally compelling to think about. The conflict over commitment and love that the plotline rouses is interesting, and again parallels well with Jacob’s own story. But ultimately, it just feels flat.
An aspect of Rumspringa that does feel dynamic throughout is the camera work. The camera makes a frequent move to show the passage of time by making 360-degree rotations around a room with very brief scenes flashing between rotations. Most of these moments had a strong visual effect and were used in just the right moments to feel fitting rather than jarring.
I absolutely adore the relationship between Jacob and Alf in Rumspringa. It’s a truly wonderful depiction of emotionally complex male friendship that not only feels like such a different story than anything I frequently watch; but also, it’s a totally fulfilling story between the two. It’s not just Jacob who winds up on a journey of self-discovery. Alf does too, and he is treated as just as important as Jacobs without diminishing his either. It’s just a lovely movie.
Rumspringa is streaming now on Netflix.
I absolutely adore the relationship between Jacob and Alf in Rumspringa. It’s a truly wonderful depiction of emotionally complex male friendship that not only feels like such a different story than anything I frequently watch; but also, it’s a totally fulfilling story between the two. It’s not just Jacob who winds up on a journey of self-discovery. Alf does too, and his is treated as just as important as Jacobs without diminishing his either. It’s just a lovely movie.