Vibrant, amusing tale from film director/author Dörrie (What Do You Want From Me?, 1991, etc.) limns a richly entertaining midlife crisis, which takes a faithless husband to a Buddhist retreat in France.
Fred is not in search of enlightenment, however, and seems an unlikely candidate for Eastern religion. He has been assigned by his wife, Claudia, to ensure that their teenaged daughter, Franka, does not run off to India with her lover, a scholar of Buddhism named Pelge. Fred leaves Munich, his lover, and his chain of eateries behind to travel with Franka to meet Pelge. His daughter immediately blends into the community and disappears, while Fred is assigned a “family” with whom he will spend the next few TV-, caffeine-, and smoke-free days. They are, as might be expected, torturous for self-indulgent Fred, but the peace gives him time to reflect on his marriage. The spark went out of it some indistinct time ago; now Claudia is a devoted Buddhist, performing nightly prostrations for world peace instead of cuddling with Fred. At the retreat, he meets lovely Antje, who confides that she’s here because her husband, Theo, has fallen in love with a student of Buddhism, and she wants to discover the religion’s appeal. It turns out that Theo, a member of Fred’s retreat “family,” is the man who inspired Claudia to try Buddhism, and indeed the two have become lovers. In some delightful sketches, Fred good-naturedly but sarcastically observes the retreat’s rituals. Then he witnesses Theo’s sudden death and realizes this sojourn has changed him. Fred wishes Franka luck in India, drives grieving Antje home to Amsterdam, declines to donate sperm to a pair of hospitable lesbians, and en route to Munich saves the life of a motorist on the autobahn
With his detached, eminently humane, honest, and bitingly funny narration, Fred makes an unerringly entertaining companion—and he even finds wisdom in Buddhist teachings, despite his best efforts to remain crass and ironic.