Softness of Bodies Dasha Nekrasova reviewYear: 2018
Director(s): Jordan Blady
Writer(s): Jordan Blady
Rating: n/a
Color, 74 mins

Synopsis: A fledgling poet tries to stay afloat in Berlin.

Jordan Blady’s Softness of Bodies is irresistible. It’s an anarchist comedy that tracks artistic and relational woes with deadpan conviction and a rush of poignant reflection. Unlike other character studies in the genre, Blady’s gives us a sociopathic anti-heroine who is unpredictable but honest. In turn, star Dasha Nekrasova renders an addicting character who just wants to watch it all burn. This unglamorous look at existential ennui is a charmer that’s as dark and complex as its blithe protagonist.

Charlie (Dasha Nekrasova) is an American ex pat in Berlin. She’s a budding poet trying to win a grant, but her real skill is that she’s a compulsive klepto. She’s stolen pretty much everything she has. Her German bf Franz (Moritz Vierboom) been swiped from another woman. Her poetry is ripped straight from obscure sources. She also literally steals clothes, candy or whatever she can get her hands on wherever she goes. After getting caught for shoplifting, Charlie’s tasked with raising enough money to stave off jail time. Complicating things, her ex-boy Oliver (Morgan Krantz) has just appeared out of nowhere, working his way into her circle of poetry colleagues and back into her life. As Charlie scrambles to earn money for her fine, her relationships begin to implode in spectacular ways. Still, Charlie doesn’t seem too phased one way or the another.

At its core, the film is a timeless story about the webs we weave and get stuck in. The plot plays as a subtly escalating comedy of errors, with Charlie confronting writer’s block and a cavalcade of needy men with a devil-may-care attitude. Much of the film’s strength comes from the way Blady juggles Charlie’s interpersonal relationships with messy realism. All of the film’s characters feel lived-in and like someone we know, each dealing with their own insecurities and issues. As Charlie resourcefully zig-zags from one situation to another, the plot unfolds like a spontaneous hang out, albeit with dread that threatens to burst from beneath the surface at any moment. When Charlie’s double dealing does eventually catch up with her, the film goes into a darker third act that reflects on the reality of her situation. Though it’s a big shift, it’s a fitting one, and Blady handles the transition in a way that really drives home who Charlie is and the damage she leaves in her wake.

Softness of Bodies Dasha Nekrasova Johannes FrickThough the film does have a great ensemble, this is Nekrasova’s show. The film owes much of its weight to her brazen sincerity in front of the camera. As Charlie, Nekrasova truly has no filter. Her perpetual slouch and laxed vocal delivery are the epitome of someone who just can’t be bothered to bend for those around her. This is her world, and everyone just lives in it. She also says what she means and does what she wants. The film deals expressly with the fallout of these narcissistic traits, but it also doesn’t judge her, rendering someone who is as irresistible as she is damaged. On the side, Johannes Frick, Moritz Vierboom, Morgan Krantz and Nadine Dubois add texture to an already vibrant film, creating different viewpoints to Charlie’s exploits.

Lined with Nekrasova’s own original poetry and star-making performance, Softness of Bodies operates on its own level. Rather than just settling for another quirky comedy about Bohemian trappings, this is a sharp portrait of an artist living in her own bubble. Blady’s reluctance to moralize also creates for something that provokes and maintains a confrontational stance, just like Charlie’s. All in all, a surprising film that catches us off guard in the best way.

SG