School’s out for summer, and a trio of best friends plan to party as much as possible — in between jobs and family responsibilities. There’s an air of carefree frivolity in the opening montages of Sami, Joe and I, a Swiss feature written and directed by Karin Heberlein. But we soon learn of the girls’ very different home lives, each of which is colored by a specific cultural background.
The story revolves around the actions that Sami and Joe take in response to their parents’ needs and Leyla’s efforts to be a supportive friend and to keep them all from growing apart or worse.
A sense of menace settles over the movie as the girls hang out in trash-strewn fields, drink beer, and get in cars with boys, but it’s unclear at first where the danger is coming from. The sources turn out to be both obvious and unexpected, as one girl suffers a violent humiliation at work and another is revealed as too sheltered to understand the difference between a legitimate threat and her parents’ paranoia.
The acting is natural and unaffected, with strong performances from the three leads. They look and behave like real teenagers from any era: they keep secrets from each other, from their parents, and from themselves, even as all they want is to be accepted for their authentic selves.
Drama, not rated, 94 minutes, in Swiss German, German, Spanish, and Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles; 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, Jean Cocteau Cinema