“Time to Say Goodbye” Review (***½)

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Maximilian Ehrenreich stars as Simon in “Time to Say Goodbye.”

To what, you ask? Great question. A question the closing title frame resolves with an iteration of this German film’s original German release title: “Simon sagt ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ zu seiner Vorhaut”—or, “Simon Says Goodbye to His Foreskin”—a title as straightforward as this comedy’s charm. Twelve-year-old Simon Grünberg (Maximilian Ehrenreich, “The Book of Life”) approaches his Bar Mitzvah in the midst of his parents’ marital separation. His recently observant Jewish father (Florian Setter) advocates for his circumcision, seeing the significance of his son’s covenant with God as a non-negotiable rite of passage. His mother (Lavinia Wilson), a fiery and headstrong erotica author, finds this appalling and refuses to subject her son to circumcision for the sake of pious rules. Simon, for lack of a better term, is torn.

To complicate matters, Simon’s new Rabbi, Rebecca (Catherine De Léan), is a warm, beautiful, intelligent woman—and he’s not the only one who notices. With well-meaning strategic help from his buddies Ben and Clemens, Simon sets off to win her heart before his father can. When an especially intimate tactic (that drew groans of all kinds from its North American Premiere audience) becomes public fodder for a private feud, Simon considers more drastic measures. His desperation to attract a first love twenty years his senior drives him to bond with God on his own terms.

“Time to Say Goodbye” is a ton of fun, and young Ehrenreich leaves you wanting nothing. Only De Léan’s role threatens to upstage his; Setter and Wilson deliver complete performances but don’t directly affect the amount of sincerity the story, based on Georg Lippert’s novel by the same name, successfully imparts. All laughter and no tears, the personal subject matter is dressed in lighthearted character development and quirky plot twists.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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