You’ve Got A Message
German Film Week 2017
Sports writer Mark is baffled when he receives romantic text messages on his cell phone. What he does not know: His new number once belonged to the deceased boyfriend of Clara, who continues to send text messages in order to cope with the loss. When Mark's girlfriend discovers the texts, she is understandably upset. Along with his best friend David, Mark sets out to find the mysterious writer.
Clara (Karoline Herfurth) is a children’s book author struggling with writer’s block. Two years ago, her boyfriend Ben died in a car accident, and since then her life has been gloomy and directionless. Even her friend Katja (Nora Tschirner) is unable to help her. One day, out of longing, she sends a text message to Ben’s old number, writing her private thoughts and frustrations, sometimes detailing her day-to-day experiences. And it turns out this number is already reassigned to someone, to Mark (Friedrich Mücke), a sports journalist currently having a shaky relationship with his girlfriend. Mark receives Clara’s messages (without replying or acknowledging he receives them) and gets infatuated with her. Eventually they meet and fall for each other, Clara discovers his secret and gets mad, Mark makes a grand gesture, and true love finally finds its place between them.
Just reading its synopsis or even its title, SMS for You is unquestionably mainstream fare, but one that is not hesitant to embrace it. It is saccharine to the core, and never subtle in its choices of plot turns and displays of affection. Its appeal lies in its being straightforward, in being the predictable love story that it aspires to be. There are iffy moments that seem to push the narrative only for entertainment and not for anything rightly reasonable – for instance, when it appears to endorse Mark’s lying and manipulation, or when Mark treats a female colleague badly – but they melt away in the film’s pursuit of clean, wholesome romance for its leads. What it lacks in creativeness it makes up for in charm, in how Herfurth and Mücke exude such colorful presence individually and exhibit undeniable chemistry together. The film is all too likable – even featuring a funny, playful music video in the closing credits – and such quality could easily enchant viewers or totally put them off.
You’ve Got a Message actually has a pretty complicated setup. Clara (Karoline Herfuth) is a woman who is still mourning the death of her boyfriend from two years ago. To deal with her trauma, she sends text messages to her boyfriend’s number, sending her deepest thoughts into the ether. It turns out, however, that journalist Mark (Friedrich Mucke) has now been assigned her boyfriend’s old number. He receives the messages and becomes infatuated with Clara. He seeks her out, and starts courting her affections.
This is something that could very well be the setup for a Star Cinema romcom, and it encounters pretty much the same problems. The contrived setup leaves little room for surprise. The film plays out its expected beats with little variation: the two discover that they have chemistry, but the secret that one of them is keeping hangs over everything. Eventually, the secret is revealed, and the characters are forced to deal with the truth of their relationship. And then other stuff. You’ve heard it all before. It’s all pulled off well enough, and the chemistry between the two leads is pretty good. But if one is looking for a new, unique, culturally specific experience, this isn’t the movie that’s going to give it.