There’s growing pains a-plenty in director Jakob M. Erwa’s tender and heartfelt coming of age tale. Adapted from an award-winning German young adult novel, Centre of My World has all the ingredients you would expect from such material – the agony and ecstasy of young love, family conflict and the voyage of self-discovery. While it struggles on occasion to address all these themes in an equally engaging manner, the film’s heart is certainly in the right place. Although a little more graphic in nature, it shares that same unassuming depiction of a same sex relationship which made Daniel Ribeiro’s 2014 Brazilian feature The Way He Looks such a refreshing take on the genre.
Phil is a 17 year-old embarking on his final year of school. Living with his mother and twin sister Dianne in their stately, yet modest, home, he is somewhat at odds with the unconventional life that his emotionally erratic and socially backwards single parent has forged. His mother has moved from partner to partner during his and Dianne’s upbringing, but Phil yearns to discover more about the father he never knew, someone whom his mother insists on keeping as a mystery, to the enteral frustration of her children. Dianne’s relationship with her mother is particularly strained, and the two are barely on speaking terms. But Phil’s family issues take a back seat on the first day of term when he meets and falls for new student, Nicholas. The two connect almost instantly, but Phil treads carefully at first not to alienate his female best friend, Kat.
It’s a delicately told tale and one that is greatly enriched by the winning lead performance from Louis Hofmann. He’s able to find an innocence in the character, whilst projecting strength and maturity as he deals with the challenges around him. The character’s warm and probing voice-over is heard throughout, sometimes accompanied by a series of humorous, Amelie-like photo montages and overall, the film’s floaty lyricism perfectly captures that woozy feeling of first love. It’s unfortunate that Phil’s blossoming romance sometimes feels like it’s in direct competition with the other story threads instead of working in harmony with them. It’s to Erwa’s credit that ultimately he’s able to ties things together with an emotionally satisfying payoff and without things becoming too cloying.