Film review: Risks and Side Effects- directed by Michael Kreihsl -darkly comedic film- ripped by twists and turns

What: Risks and Side Effects [Risiken und Nebenwirkungen], film directed by Michael Kreihsl (Austria) – in German, with English subtitles
Starring: Inka Friedrich, Samuel Finzi, Pia Hierzegger, Thomas Mraz
Genre: Drama-comedy
Running time: 92 minutes    
Available to view: European Film Festival (South Africa) -October 14 -24, 2021
Tickets: No charge – tickets are free
Access: The online screening of films are geo-blocked for viewing in South Africa only.   

What would you do if your significant other was in need of a kidney and you were a perfect match? Would you donate your kidney? Of course, yes?  Or would you? I loved Risks and Side Effects [Risiken und Nebenwirkungen] which will be screening online, as part of the European Film Festival (South Africa) – from October 14 -24, 2021. It is a darkly comedic film, ripped by twists and turns and knock-out performances by the four principal protagonists.

In Risks and Side Effects, Katrin, a Pilates teacher is told by her doctor that she is in kidney failure. She requires a new kidney. Her husband is a perfect match, which is great. However, she is faced by his hesitancy which hovers between hesitancy and outright refusal. An architect with a big practice, he cites the risks and side effects involved in becoming a living organ donor. He is an important man with a big workforce. He is holding it all together and here she has the gall to ask for his kidney. It is funny and it is not; of course. Meanwhile, his friend, also a match, says, no problem, he will donate his kidney. His wife is not charmed by that idea. The plot thickens and sickens, with bargaining and side hustle narratives popping up.

The film, tagged by many as the “organ donor film” sets up a heated exchange between two couples and a kidney.  There is also a daughter, on the sidelines. Risks and Side Effects is a provocative film about relationships – love, friendship; decency, choices; facing death and dealing with consequences. The film is based on a play of the same name, by Stefan Vögeland. There is terrific dramatic intensity to the film, reminiscent of a theatre play.  Much of the action takes place in stylistic domestic interiors- impeccably arranged spaces. Everything is ordered and its place.  From the domestic space, we see restaurant, coffee shop, doctor’s rooms and flashes of the outdoors. It is as if each scene is staged. We watch as the couples become entangled in allegiances, lies, deception and game playing.

The principals are veteran stage actors and work brilliantly as an ensemble. Inka Friedrich as Katrin owns the film with her performance as the wife, flummoxed by her husband’s donor hesitancy. It is not only what she says but what she doesn’t say – with her withering looks. It is at once horrifying and hilarious. Friedrich nails each scene. As the wife of an alpha male and extreme narcissist she is clearly used to holding her tongue. She edits her conversations but her body and gestures speaks volumes. Watch her in the last chunks of the film, with her droll use of Schatz (German for darling, love, treasure). Her performance is captivating. Samuel Finzi is fabulous as Arnold, the architect. I am not going to plot spoil but watch him in the latter part of the film. The film has English subtitles but even with my smattering of Yiddish/German, I was able to follow parts of the dialogue and enjoy verbal jabs in the German.

I was surprised and delighted by Risks and Side Effects. It is highly entertaining, cleverly plotted; dripping with biting dialogue, stylish, with a terrific ensemble cast. What is a kidney between friends and loved ones? Do not miss.

Inka Friedrich and Samuel Finzi, in Risks and Side Effects [Risiken und Nebenwirkungen], directed by Michael Kreihsl. The film is screening online, as part of the European Film Festival (South Africa) – from October 14 -24, 2021. Supplied.