Many of us will remember being a kid and forced to accompany our parents to the grocery store because we were too young to be left home alone. Following them as they strolled up and down the aisles, pondering over which brand of wheat bread to buy, felt like an eternity. The boredom of watching grown-ups shop devoured our playful souls.
Well, if you want to relive that feeling, then you’re in luck! The aisles aren’t any more exciting here. Instead of watching our parents, we watch the film’s protagonist, Christian Gruvert (Franz Rogowski), learn his new job as a grocery stocker.
Christian stacks crates, maneuvers pallet jacks and struggles with forklifts. Boy, do we watch him lift those forks. He drops them; he moves forward; he reverses; he even turns! In one scene, Christian and his co-worker quiet down and listen to the forks as they slowly fall to the floor because it “sounds like the ocean.”
I drove a forklift everyday for a year. They don’t sound like the ocean, and they’re not interesting. They can actually be fun if you have a cool supervisor who lets you do donuts.
Christian’s supervisor is far from cool. None of the characters are cool. Christian statically stands, stares and rarely speaks. His love interest and co-worker, Marion (Sandra Hüller), pokes fun at his personality, but she’s hardly different. Sure, she smiles a little more and says a couple more sentences than him, but that’s about it.
Character interactions are a bore, and drama is non-existent. I’m not sure we can even call Christian a protagonist, considering he’s hardly pushing the insubstantial story forward. This is a very flat display of a character working a job and ‘flirting’ with his co-worker by awkwardly standing in front of her.
The copious tattoos on Christian’s body suggest he has a felonious past. Maybe that’s why he is so reticent. It could be that living a legitimate life as an ordinary German citizen is a radical change for him.
In one scene we see him revert to past ways when he drinks with some old buddies at a bar. But then the scene ends and he goes back to the forklift. Exciting.
In the Aisles is a void. Its silence is unsettling; its plodding pace makes for a lifeless story; and the sterile characters give us no good reason to care about them. Its few redeeming qualities are held in its professional production, cinematographer Peter Matjasko’s excellent lighting and composition, and director/co-writer Thomas Stuber’s shot at an important subject.
Stuber’s moderate attempt to survey loneliness and depression falls way flat thanks to the dull material. Zach Braff’s Garden State (2004) conveys depression while using light comedy and kooky characters; Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry (1997) expresses depression while providing insight to life and death through character interactions; In the Aisles doesn’t offer anything outside of its depressing tone. Consequently, it permanently sits in staleness from corner to corner, making it as interesting as a well manned forklift.