Western ★★★★½

The World Is More Than Enough 8: Ladies Take Letterboxd (19/30 - Germany)

World Tour 2020

About three years ago, my daughter had an appointment to see an occupational therapist, one of the number of professionals who work with her as she is autistic.

We had a conversation during that appointment about communication and I expressed to her the frustration I had often felt with myself at not being to understand what she was saying sometimes when she was distressed. I said that I wanted there to be a stronger verbal bond with her.

The OT said something to me that has stuck to this day and, in some ways, changed the way I communicate with my daughter. She asked me how we all communicate with each other on a day-to-day basis in non-verbal ways. She then asked if we used some of these methods to communicate with each other and, of course, we do.

She pointed out that we put so much stead in verbal communication that we completely undervalue the other ways we express ourselves to a person or people. She suggested that we expand the looks and signs and non-verbal audio cues we used to each other to improve our communication, and, as I say, it really changed things between us for the best.

This all sprung to mind watching Western, where a group of German labourers are working on building a dam near a small Bulgarian village. The usual frustration and miscommunication happens as both sides struggle to understand their languages. But one member of the German group, lead actor Meinhard Neumann, never expresses such frustrations.

He doesn't express irritation that he can't understand Bulgarian, instead always watching who he is with to pick up on any cues that he can, and catching the occasional shared word. His lack of annoyance at the situation strikes a chord with the villagers, as they see a willingness in him to keep spending time with them so he can get to bond with them in other ways.

There's a scene in particular that sticks in my mind when talking about this subject, where Neumann tells a villager he's become particularly friendly with about his dead brother. This is such a beautiful scene that says so much about how we can find a human connection even with the circumstances might not seem to be in our favour.

Western isn't ever in a rush to say what it needs to but, fittingly, does so in a number of different and extremely engaging ways. A splendid achievement, and even more so when you consider this was a debut for almost the whole of the cast. Stunning.

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