Dir: Lars Kraume. Ger. 2007. 90mins

Despite promising, tense beginnings, classroom tensions fail to provide much in the way of social or emotional revelation in Good Morning, Mister Grothe. Despite strong lead performances, this story of a teacher and a problem pupil going head to head finally veers uneasily between mundanity and melodrama.

Directed confidently by Lars Kraume - whose feature Keine Lieder Über Liebe played in Panorama in 2005 - the DV-shot feature is for the most part a solid realist exploration of the blackboard jungle.

With inevitable echoes of more mainstream idealistic-teacher dramas such as To Sir, With Love, Dangerous Minds and Bertrand Tavernier's Ça Commence Aujourd'hui, Kraume's film also covers similar ground to another, considerably harder-edged German low-budget drama, Maren Ade's The Forest For The Trees (2003).

Good Morning's gritty but ultimately unexciting approach will make it a limited theatrical sell, and action outside Germany will no doubt be limited to the festival circuit.

Its hero is Michael Grothe (Blomberg), a late-30s divorced German teacher in a Berlin high school. He's tough, idealistic yet pragmatic, and thoroughly

tenacious, even when faced with a class of teenagers who are apathetic at best, downright rebellious at worst.

His problem pupil is Nico (Trepte), a sullen, strutting bully whose main interest is disrupting classes. It comes as no surprise when, after a while, Grothe seems to achieve a kind of breakthrough with Nico, who responds well to Grothe's adoption of him as a case meriting special efforts.

Just as quickly, though, the bond between teacher and pupil turns sour - as does the rest of Grothe's life, including his burgeoning relationship with single colleague Lisa Kranz (Kunzendorf).

The classroom scenes are impeccable, with a strong teenage cast interacting convincingly: beyond the kids' collective apathy and contempt, the young actors effectively sketch out each one's individual personality.

When it comes to the adults, however, Blomberg and Kunzendorf struggle a little to convey much more than the cliche of committed but overstressed teachers failing to reconcile vocation with a personal life.

The narrative is uneven, a promising open sequence - with Nico pursuing a personal grudge against Grothe - never quite followed up in terms of suggestive conflict. The audience breathes a sigh of relief when the potentially cliched rapport between teacher and pupil - based on athletics and a spot of Salinger - is blown off course, but the path that the film eventually takes is unsatisfying, with Blomberg not quite pulling off his portrait of a strong man in collapse.

Fluidly-executed DV photography gives the film a no-nonsense realist ring, but no new ground is broken.

Production companies/backers
Allmedia Pictures

International sales

Heike Richter-Karst

Beate Langemaack

Jens Harant

Barbara Gies

Christof M Kaiser
Julian Maas

Main cast
Sebastian Blomberg
Nina Kunzendorf
Ludwig Trepte
Mehmet Subasi