Like the similarly titled "Shakespeare in Love," the German romance "Young Goethe in Love" outlandishly takes a literary icon and reduces his grand talent to a single incident of unrequited love.
In 1772, young Johann Goethe (Alexander Fehling) is failing as a poet and flunking as a law student so his domineering dad (Henry Hübchen) sends him off to a small-town court for some practical experience as an apprentice to the humorless chief clerk, Albert Kestner (Moritz Bleibtreu, from "Run Lola Run"). Goethe soon meets the vivacious Lotte Buff (Miriam Stein), and they fall in love. But, to keep her family's house, Lotte must agree to marry another man: Kestner.
Director/co-writer Philipp Stölzl (who also made the mountaineering drama "North Face") pumps up the melodrama with lush settings and Ingo L. Frenzel's swooning score. Fehling and Stein have a fiery screen chemistry, even through all the period trappings. The result is a movie that splits the difference between admirers of Goethe and readers of paperback romance novels.