Workplace minutiae filtered through a tenderhearted lens results in the subdued charm of Thomas Stuber’s “In the Aisles,” a German supermarket romance starring prodigious thespians Franz Rogowski (“Transit”) and Sandra Hüller (“Toni Erdmann”) in mutedly poignant parts.
Hired as a stock handler for the beverage department, Rogowski’s Christian, a gentle man with a turbulent background, hides his tattoo-covered body under the modest uniform. As veteran employee and de facto mentor Bruno (Peter Kurth) educates him on monotonous duties and the store’s internal politics, the self-effacing newbie develops an endearingly reciprocated crush on Marion (Hüller), his coworker from the sweet goods section.
Spiced with forklift conflicts, bathroom stall smoke breaks, the pleasures of furtive snacking, and cheap coffee in a room adorned with painted palm trees as if inviting them to mentally transport elsewhere, the staff’s quiet existences are handled with introspective compassion and never exploited for overt comedy. Camaraderie among them softens the impact of solitude and frustration one kind gesture at a time.
Evoking melancholic wonder, the film’s soundscape stacks pensive narration, classical music, deftly selected English-language tracks, enrapturing sounds of the ocean, and pitch-perfect silences to enliven the faintly colored and oppressively symmetrical spaces sometimes captured as literal cages. Stuber repeatedly reaps the beauty of the stylistically economical choices he sowed.
Noble as Christian’s intentions are, the plot eludes awarding him a neatly wrapped resolution, opting for the pursuit of a serene state as the character’s best bet to endure the world’s calamity. Like a humble gift, “In the Aisles” makes up for its lack of opulence with quotidian magic.
‘In the Aisles’
In German with English subtitles
Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Playing: Starts June 21, Laemmle Royal, West L.A.