Maya Jasmin’s seemingly semi-autobiographical ROOFTOPS OF MY CITY explores how people come to find a city home, especially in the transient, cosmopolitan, immigrant-rich New York. The story follows two characters, a young Swiss burgeoning actor named Oliver, and a German up-and-coming DJ named Lena, whose diverse origins leave her struggling to contact with other. The two live one rooftop apart, and even have some conversations but only begin to really know each other after Oliver overhears Lena speaking German and recognizes as linguistic kin. In getting to know each other, the two discover that they have that ex-patriot bond that seems to connect so many émigrés in foreign lands. They miss Becks beer and speaking German. They both feel like their backgrounds are amorphous and hard to describe. Lena feels German, Japanese, and Polish simultaneously, while Oliver feels not-quite-German at German bars.
There’s a lot to ROOFTOPS OF MY CITY that is quite refreshing. Oliver and Lena have good chemistry that is not romantic but evokes the odd compatriotism that émigrés share. The photography evokes everything that is simultaneously great and problematic about Brooklyn. The pastel shades and dusky light conveys the strange, urban beauty and lonely strangeness that characterizes Brooklyn, a place in which you can be always and never alone simultaneously. Moreover, the actors are sweet, credible, and awkward enough to show how strange a new, actively pursued friendship can be. The director plays Lena, who is clearly a version of herself, while Terrence Schweizer has a very credible performance as a burgeoning actor.
The dialog can be a bit awkward and forced, however, and the revelations that the two have are fairly normal for anyone of complex backgrounds. It seems that this is older, well-worn territory for young people who have grown up in this globalized world. The characters are charming, though, which makes up for the facileness of their conclusions. ROOFTOPS evokes that first move after college and struggle to make our place in a brave, new, world. We really root for them to succeed in their new homes, and, in such a character-driven movie, and may be the real thing that recommends it.