© Timebandits Films GmbH

Almost Heaven
Germany 2005

Opening 25 Aug 2005

Directed by: Ed Herzog
Writing credits: Paul Herzberg, Ed Herzog
Principal actors: Heike Makatsch, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Michael Gwisdek, Carl Bradshaw

In this German film about dreams-come-true, country singer Helen (Heike Makatsch) from Cologne flies to Nashville for a gig in the Bluebird Café. Unfortunately, her cowboy hat, boots, and guitar are the wrong gear in the wrong place, because she lands in Jamaica, which is definitely reggae country. In her attempts to leave the island, she meets native Rosie (an excellent performance by Nikki Amuka-Bird), drives from Kingston to Portland and loses everything more than once. (Time out for the song Make me a Pallet on Your Floor.) There is no help from the German consul, “We can send you back to Germany, not to Nashville. If we bought every unhappy housewife a ticket to her dream place, there wouldn’t be any women left in Germany.” She meets interesting musicians and other island people, performs in a five-star hotel, and finally has her grand moment before 2000 guests including new arrivals: husband Carlo and his Russian employee Strike (a very good performance by Ivan Shvedoff).

The story is simple and the ending is no surprise. The music is especially good, country or reggae or a combination of both, often performed by Makatsch herself. The islanders derisively call country “songs about a woman in her apron, crying into the soapy water because her husband is cheating with her best friend.” The film’s title is the first words of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. Perhaps Hollywood will try a remake of the idea, in which case it would be good to drop the clichés. For example, Helen doesn’t have to look like Heidi in blond braids searching for her grandfather in the alpine pastures. Also, let her go to Nashville because she wants to and not because she is suffering a terminal disease with time running out, although after she said, “I need to get to Nashville” for the tenth time, I could have willingly propelled her there myself. Filmed on location, the beautiful landscape of this Caribbean island makes it all worth your time. The German text is easy; the songs are in English. (Becky Tan)

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