Maren Ade's staggering Everyone Else is a relationship drama with the distressing air of a particularly merciless horror film. There is nothing conventionally frightening about it. But Ade's dissection of a doomed and festering relationship is so thoughtful and unflinching that the movie burrows under your skin and stays there. It is a profound and chilling illustration of the adage that the mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.
The film follows a newly formed German couple on vacation in Sardinia. Chris (Lars Eidinger) is a struggling, idealistic architect who's pinned his hopes on an unlikely win in a design competition. Lanky, good-looking (but for a burgeoning bald spot that, along with a score of other things, makes him self-conscious), and by all accounts brilliant, he appears at first to be infatuated with his girlfriend Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr, The White Ribbon), who clearly admires him. While waiting for the result of Chris's contest, they spend their days on sex, food, and lounging by the pool of the lovely vacation home they've borrowing for the week.
Complications arise, but by cinematic standards they are minor. The two run into Chris's former colleague Hans and his new wife, the sort of insufferably bourgeois couple Chris and Gitti in principle despise ("It's not a vacation if I have to see him," Chris complains) – but of course, Chris can use Hans's professional advice and connections. They go on a long hike and get brutally lost, as tensions between them begin to bubble to the surface. Out of nowhere, Chris sneaks out for a second rendezvous with Hans and his horrible wife, and then insists on a third.