There's a lot of fodder and several funny and heartwarming moments in this movie, but some scenarios are too far-fetched and others overly contrived. Elements of the humor in Rumspringa also fail to land (or maybe just to translate).
Holdenrieder is believable enough as the earnest, wide-eyed Amish in Berlin, and his mutually educational relationship with Alf is heartwarming as they go from bros to brothers. The emotional bonding of the male friendship is definitely the highlight of the film, while Alf's and Jacob's romantic relationships with Freya and Ina feel more like plot devices. Uninteresting secondary characters, like roommate Mr. Bo, could've been cut to make room for more of the primary relationships.
Flashbacks to Jacob's life in Pennsylvania help explain his behavior, but some actions, like a radical haircut or stealing Alf's car, feel too far out of character. As Alf and Ina quickly discover, Jacob's simple, structured worldview offers much calm in their scattered modern lives.
When a pretentious art collector calls his Amish background impressively "authentic," it sums up the lack of identity and purpose so many seem to feel in contemporary society, and which Jacob -- whose purpose he says is to "be a good person" -- has in spades. As such, it feels somewhat contradictory that Jacob keeps extending his year abroad, but the connections he makes and the awakenings he experiences are largely depicted as sweet and a natural part of growing up he might otherwise have missed.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.
Image courtesy of Netflix.