A Handful of Water
by Daniel Baldwin
Jakob Zapf’s quiet drama A Handful of Water revolves around grieving widower Konrad Hausnick (Jurgen Prochnow) living out his days going through his usual routine in a very cold and robotic manner, with the only light in his life coming not from his adult daughter and her new family, but instead from his fish-filled basement aquarium. He is a man who has found himself unable to move beyond his sorrow, nor to find room in his heart for the joy of others. Enter Thurba Al-Sherbini (Milena Pribak).
Thurba is a 12-year-old Yemeni refugee who is on the run . She set off into the world on her own when German police come knocking at her home, forcing her to leave her mother and two siblings behind. Per German law, the family cannot be deported back to Bulgaria unless all members are accounted for. If you’re guessing that Thurba manages to take up residence in Konrad’s home, you’re right on the Deutsche Mark!
A young person managing to bring a bereaved aging man out of his shell is a tale as old as time. Sometimes it comes in the form of fantastical animation like Up!, a violent comic book blockbuster like Logan, or a soaring sports drama like Creed. And sometimes it arrives in a much smaller package, as it does here. This is a tried and true formula because it’s one that often sings and that holds true for this film as well.
Those of you who are primarily used to seeing Prochnow vamp it up in a villainous manner across decades of genre cinema are in for a treat here, as this is a very different side of the man. Jurgen has rarely been better than he is as Konrad, and his performance is matched pound for pound by newcomer Pribak. They are the heart and soul of the film. It doesn’t matter if you can guess where things will go at almost every turn, as the flavors they add to the journey make it worthwhile.
A Handful of Water might not contain very many surprises, but it also avoids the pitfalls of many dramas of this type. It’s never too on the nose with its message and it’s never too saccharine for its own good either. Zapf, Prochnow, and Pribak get the recipe right from moment one and the end result is a fine little drama.