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In the night-time world of an East German supermarket, forklifts glide, crates of alcohol are stacked, and shelves of gourmet foodstuffs are re-filled. Despite the grim climate of ‘re-unified’ Germany, where the economic imperative dictates that edible food must rot in bins, the workers find their own ways to carve out humane spaces. Rising German star Franz Rogowski (Transit) is immensely watchable, despite few words, as Christian, the new worker with a troubled past taking his first shift in the prestigious aisle of Beverages. Before long, he has fallen for a nearby worker from the Sweet Goods aisle.
Sandra Hüller, whom many will recognise from Toni Erdmann, plays the object of his attention. Both shine, as do the surrounding support cast who hold their lonely realities with poignancy and humour. Peter Matjasko’s cinematography delicately captures the bizarreness of this surreal world, in all its magical and heart-breaking poetry.
Director Thomas Stuber’s delightfully considered third feature fully immerses the viewer in this culturally specific folk tragedy which resonates with films like I, Daniel Blake, portraying the way people slip through the gaps in a capitalist world. It’s simple but deeply suspenseful, and as the screws turn in the plot, several heavy threats hang large. Yet Stuber’s craft allows us to feel all the possible resonances without taking us to melodrama, and in the end the story’s subtlety is its triumph. A lively and often surprising soundtrack sets In the Aisles squarely in its own compassionate, totally engaging and unique world. – Jo Randerson