Sinfully as of yet not distributed outside of its native Germany, Luca tanzt leise (going by the English-language title Dancing Quietly) is a diamond-in-the-rough search for anything decent to watch. A small gem though at less than 90 minutes, it is by no means diminished in value by its running time, potential lack of viewing access outside of Germany, nor its mental illness subject matter. The short duration is a blessing, but I could have happily watched the director’s extended version – if there is such a thing of course. Available on Netflix, Dancing Quietly comes loudly recommended as a down-to-Earth, every day portrayal of Luca (Martina Schöne-Radunski), a young woman with a clear (but never over-cooked) trail of depression by her side, as well as a fetching feline Mata, as she attempts to regain her footing by studying for and sitting her high school diploma.
The movie is not about the actual education per se, or at least as text books and illegible notes go, but the level of discipline required with a hectic social agenda, the progression beyond the line of darkness and a bright future, not to mention forming a friendship with an older student while not quickly enough kicking her dickbag boyfriend into touch. As romance goes, Luca has none concrete with either. Her violent, clingy partner Ben (Sebastian Fräsdorf) has some kind of twisted feelings for his trophy girlfriend, but they lie somewhere in the gutter of possession and insecurity rather than the starry heights of love and devotion. Her new study colleague agrees to help her with math if she will return the favor with English. He’s likely a generation older, and the platonic companionship with Kurt (Hans-Heinrich Hardt), is a refreshingly romance-free affair. Their bond is founded on a mutual need, the friendship that soon develops is cathartic, the kind of social partnership we don’t see nearly enough on screen these days.
In its core though, Dancing Quietly channels the psyche of Luca, touching on her melancholic side, but also allowing her to express her somewhat carefree, quirky nature. Luca has a spark and a way with the world that is endearing, playing a huge part in our support for her, and her own emotional endeavors. This is not then a movie that particularly drags your mood right down to the floor. Writer-director Philipp Eichholtz echoes many familiar downsides to mental health, but continues a natural flow of wit and honesty in impressing the characters’ imperfections and what essentially makes us human. That said, there are a few sucker punches to the heart and the increase of adrenaline. A movie worth its weight in gold, Dancing Quietly offers surprises of varying depth and mood without distracting from the story’s authentic rhythm. The exceptional Schöne-Radunski in the role of Luca is the rock here, shadowing the struggles of life in the short term while we wonder how this magnetic character got to this place. And while we hope she gets through the other side wearing ruby slippers.