An unflattering albeit incisive character study, Ulrich Seidl’s first in a supposed trilogy Paradise: Love certainly earns its spot on the festival circuit despite a penchant to alienate. Centering on a frumpy single mother (Margarete Tiesel) as a Kenyan vacation retreat unites her with an unending desire for romantic involvement, Seidl’s tastefully lurid sensibilities do wonders for the production at hand.
Simultaneously depicting the at-ease nature of a titular group of females and the aggravatingly persistent entrepreneurship of the locals, deliberate framing and pacing benchmark the film’s higher points. Pairing these with an admirably controlled aesthetic, Seidl does a bang-up job in perpetuating the aforementioned longing that frequently plagues Teresa’s mature if fragile psyche.
Reciprocated exploitation becomes the primary focus of Paradise: Love‘s latter half as said longing turns primal in an attempt to sate our protagonist’s sexual appetite. While the tone noticeably fluctuates quite a bit during these moments, it’s still safe to say that Seidl aptly balances all elements so as to avoid any potentially jarring tendencies. Even still, the ball’s dropped during the film’s final moments when an opportunity to end on a reflective note is squandered colossally.
For as tame as it sounds, it can be assured that Paradise: Love is very much a figurative handful and maybe too much for casual filmgoers to take in. Gratingly drawn-out occurrences partially detract from its appeal, however the subject matter and lingering sense of poise laced with awkward tenderness are enough to hold it in high regard as a TIFF 2012 highlight.