It is very nice to see how a director from a country besides the U.S. creates a romantic comedy. This type of film isn't what one would expect from Germany, and perhaps that contributes to its charm. Certainly Christiane Paul who portrays the title's namesake is luminous. Every frame she is in, she lights up the screen. It has been said that they success of a romantic comedy depends on the audience falling in love with the main characters as they are falling in love on screen. If this is true, then both Christiane and Moritz Bleibtreu (who plays Daniel Bannier) do a marvelous job of seducing the audience, both are very likable and by the second reel you are cheering for them to be together.
The plot has the basic framework of a road movie/romantic comedy. Daniel is closed off and stuffy, and Juli is the free spirit who is his guide to individual freedom and expression. Daniel meets her at a street fair, and she immediately recognizes him as "the one" who is his destiny. She sells him a ring with the symbol of the sun that is supposed to unite him with his one true love who will also be wearing a solar symbol. Daniel doesn't know it at the time, but Juli has a tattoo of the sun on the small of her back. That night he meets a pretty young woman named Melek who is carrying a backpack bearing a picture of the sun. He takes this as a sign and pursues her. At drinks together she informs him that she is meeting someone under a well-known bridge in Istanbul. He is disappointed that she is meeting someone who she might be in love with, but after they part ways he decides to go to Istanbul and meet her under the bridge on the night of her meeting with this other man.
Meanwhile Juli, having seen Daniel and Melek together becomes depressed and decides to leave the city. As she stands at the crossroads of the highway, she says her goodbyes to her friend and states that she will go wherever the next ride takes her, no matter where they are going. Sure enough, Daniel stops for her and they begin their journey together. Along the way, Juli falls even further in love with Daniel even though he is on a quest to meet another woman. As they make their way, the usual kinds of twists and turns that one expects in a comedic road movie crop up: the car breaks down, they lose all their money and are forced to depend on the kindness of a quirky bunch of characters to complete their journey. All the while Daniel is learning to let go of the very tight grip he has on his life. As he loosens his hold his heart also opens to Juli, and when she leaves him to complete his odyssey alone (an act of unselfish love, and an indicator that Juli is learning lessons herself), he finally realizes that the girl he truly wanted was with him all the while.
Near the end of his trek he runs into the very girl he is going to Istanbul to meet and finds her very happy to see him. Here he must make a choice to stay with Melek, who obviously wants him to stay, or complete his adventure to the bridge where Juli may or may not be waiting for him. I'll leave you to find out the rest, but rest assured there will be no unhappy ending here.
As Hollywood tries to come up with increasingly improbable scenarios to breathe new life into the romantic comedy, German director Faith Akin follows a familiar path and allows the heart of these characters to draw us into the story. The exotic places they travel through becomes a separate character as well, and Akin allows the beauty and mystery of these locals to seduce as much as the main characters do.
The charm of this movie is in the reminder that humans the world over feel the same excitement and happiness when falling in love. Akin wisely relies on the desire each of us has to feel that love, and the delight of seeing others experience that joy as well. It will never grow boring watching two likable characters fall in love, especially when they are willing to fight, trek thousands of miles, and endure any hardship to be with the one they love. With In July, Akin spins a wonderful tale of love, growth and discovery. You won't go wrong spending a couple of hours with this film falling in love yourself.
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