The real art in “Never Look Away” is patience. This German import, which has been entered in the Oscars for the Best Foreign Language nomination, runs for 3 hours, and ergo, it takes its time to help the main character understand his pure artistic talents.
The movie, inspired by the life of German artist Gerhard Richter, takes place between 1938-1966. The Richter character here, Kurt Barnet (Tom Schilling), learned about art inspiration from his aunt Elizabeth (Saskia Rosendahl), who had mental problems, and was committed. She ends up being the victim of the sadistic head doctor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch), and dies years later in another institution.
Years later in the early 50s, Kurt becomes an art student and falls for another student named Elizabeth (sounds familiar to him), whom he calls Ellie (Paula Beer). The two become lovers, but she turns out to be Seeband’s daughter. And eventually when she becomes ill during a pregnancy, her father gives her an abortion, thus ruining their chances of starting a family.
After and during the family drama (depending on which comes first), Kurt attends another art school, where he decides to expand his horizons, while struggling with his own issues.
And the acting here is dazzling. Schilling keeps his sanity and patience with or without his canvas and easel; Koch keeps you at the edge of your seat as the father; and Beer is charming, not just her sex scenes, but also the abortion and miscarriage drama she becomes trapped in.