Phoenix has an intriguing premise: a Jewish woman who survives the holocaust named Nelly receives a new face and has to reintegrate to normal life. Even though her doctor and friend urge her to choose a different face, she yearns to look exactly like she did before the horrible events that occurred. She longs to find her husband Johnny, who may or may not have sold her out to the Nazis. After meeting him as her new self, Lucy, he convinces her to pretend to be his dead wife so he can inherit her family’s wealth. She gamely goes along with his plan.
The acting is excellent. Nina Hoss as Nelly is relatable, and every emotion she feels shows on her beautiful, bruised face. Ronald Zehrfeld as Johnny is cold and cruel, yet sometimes shows a glimmer of care. Together, they have both excellent chemistry and a sense of dread as he mistreats and belittles her.
The atmosphere is gloomy and oppressive at times, and at other times sunny and vibrant. I felt like this juxtaposition was a masterstroke of cinematography.
The story is where things get a little messy. The film starts off with a punch, but as the story unwinds, it loses steam. By the end of the film, I was left slightly disappointed with the ending and the resolution of the story.
Overall, Phoenix is a unique, well-acted film with excellent cinematography. The story may lose steam as it goes on, but it’s still worth a watch, and it’ll still hit you hard.