Things are going well enough for Marc (Hanno Koffler). He’s not the top athlete in his class at the police academy; plagued by shortness of breath and a stitch in his side, he falls far behind the others during training runs. On the other hand, he’s set to follow in his father’s footsteps in a stable career, and he and girlfriend Bettina (Katharina Schüttler) are expecting a child, so life is far from bad.
But when Marc and a fellow academy pupil named Kay (Maz Riemelt) start to get closer than Marc’s ready for, that safe, predictable life suddenly seems imperiled. Despite his best efforts, Marc finds himself surrendering to his impulses and engaging in a wild affair with Kay.
In a way, it’s regrettable that Marc’s fling with Kay begins with drugs and progresses to sex in the forest and dancing at loud nightspots. Do we really need to have stereotypical "gay life" presented as Marc’s entree to his own genuine sexuality? In another way, screenwriters Stephan Lacant and Karsten Dahlem have made a clever choice in how they portray Kay’s lifestyle: The way it tempts Marc speaks to Marc’s careful guarding and control, and the effort it takes to keep his grip. The contrast is stark once Marc’s vigilantly maintained heterosexual facade begins to slide out from under him.
As his tightly-wound, white-knuckle control starts to relax, and a more authentic version of himself emerges, Marc finds that all the familiar touchstones have begun to recede: Bettina is suspicious and angry, his parents are rueful and disappointed, and his own colleagues start to show a mean, even dangerous, side. "Free Fall" is a fitting title for this parable of liberation and the disorientation it entails; chalk it up to the no-nonsense German temperament, and Lacant’s similarly clear-eyed direction, but this film is unsparing and unsentimental in its portrayal of what it costs some people to claim a truthful life.
If there’s a central motif to the movie, it’s Kay encouraging Marc to become a better and more enduring runner by learning how to breathe deeply and regularly, rather than panting and gasping desperately. Similarly, this film’s mix of exhilaration, loss, confusion, and self-discovery demands some deep breaths to process. This is sophisticated gay cinema, not sugarcoated fluff, and it’s worth some extra effort.
(In German, with subtitles.)