The young Johann Goethe (Alexander Fehling) has the soul of a poet in “Young Goethe in Love,” which bodes well for his real-life future as a genius of German literature but poses problems when it comes to dealing with the challenges of everyday life.
His head is so far up in the clouds that he has little interest in the mundane business of earning a living.
Surely, the world will come around to recognizing his talent.
But that doesn’t happen soon enough for Goethe’s father (Henry Hbchen), who is tired of being his benefactor and insists that he pursue a legal career. I
• no time, Goethe finds himself under the thumb of Albert Kestner (Moritz Bleibtreu), a humorless prosecutor with no use for the fine arts.
But it’s not long before the aspiring writer comes under the spell of Lotte (Miriam Stein), a fetching young woman who sees in him what no one else does. She becomes his lover and his muse.
But can she ever be more than that?
Directed and co-written by Philipp Stlzl, “Young Goethe in Love” is very much in the spirit of the Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love.”
Perhaps it’s a bit too enamored of its predecessor, particularly in its concluding scenes. But Stlzl blends romance and melancholy in fine style.
With his seemingly effortless charm, Fehling has what it takes to be a Hollywood star. So does Stein, who brings to Lotte the feistiness of Debra Winger in her prime. And as the no-nonsense Kestner, Bleibtreu (“Run Lola Run”) proves to be a refreshingly nuanced antagonist.
“Young Goethe in Love” isn’t to be taken as biographical truth, as it’s unlikely that Goethe’s early life adhered so closely to the beats of a screenplay.
But it’s an old-fashioned romance that’s easy to like even if you have no interest in German literature, illegal duels or the more romantic aspects of committing suicide. ‘Young Goethe in Love’
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Cast: Alexander Fehling, Miriam Stein, Moritz Bleibtreu, Volker Bruch
Director: Philipp Stlzl
Running time: 1:40
Rated: Not rated; in German with English subtitles