Cloud 9 makes a spectacle of the very thing it intends to demystify. Namely: geriatric sex, which the film seeks to make mundane by refusing to shy away from the sight of its elderly principals engaged in graphic simulated rutting. Yet by foregrounding the carnality and the naked bodies of its sixty- and seventy-something actors, and by extension the implicit “courage” of its choices, Cloud 9 risks trivializing and objectifying its protagonists. This is particularly detrimental to a film whose unremarkable central love triangle plot desperately needs vital characters to make any impact; rather than the drama of vividly realized people, German director Andreas Dresen’s romance trades in flesh, as well as elevated notions of itself.
It’s a film that feels less lived-in than overly studied, despite the director’s stated aspirations to Mike Leigh–style character investment and improvisation. Dresen’s rehearsal process with Ursula Werner, as 67-year-old Inge, Horst Rehlberg, as her stoic husband of 30 years, and Horst Westphal, as her 76-year-old lover, has resulted in little more than alternating histrionic breakdowns and polite domestic rapport compressed into a mise-en-scène dully beholden to contemporary European art-house filmmaking style: toggled handheld and static camera, grainy authenticity, harsh natural light. Cloud 9 doesn’t show us anything new so much as it use its characters’ age as a gimmick to gussy up its hoary clichés: call it shabby chic.