A day in the life of a slacker, twenty-something living in Berlin may not sound like everybody’s cup of tea. But this guy’s more concerned with coffee anyway. The actual day is a rather momentous one with a series of mishaps and unfortunate events, making this story seem a little different to the one originally described. In fact, Oh Boy could be a lot like your own life due to the absurdities that pepper it and the colourful characters that inhabit it.
The film is the directorial debut from Jan Ole Gerster and has recently won numerous awards at German’s own version of the Oscars. Gerster also wrote the film’s screenplay and this light comedy is full of funny moments, witty observations and sharp dialogue. The pace occasionally drifts by like its slacker star but when this is coupled with a jaunty jazz soundtrack, it’s fair to say things are kept fun and upbeat.
Niko Fischer (Tom Schilling) is a law school drop-out who has been living off his father’s allowance. In the course of a day his laziness earns him a relationship, sees him scuffle with an overzealous public servant and results in him having a confrontation with his father. When his Dad realises his son hasn’t been to class in over two years he asks the guy what he’s been doing. His son responds: “I’ve been thinking. About you, about me”.
The film is shot completely in black and white, lending it an artistic feel not unlike Anton Corbijn’s Control, especially in the later scenes where a montage is filled with German buildings and landscapes. But that’s where that similarity ends. Instead, Oh Boy has more in common with an episode of Seinfeld (i.e. celebrating or bearing witness to the absurdities in daily life like the impossible quest for a “regular” cup of coffee) or the neurotic styling of a Woody Allen film.
Oh Boy is centred around one strange day and Fischer encounters some rather quirky characters along the way with a mix of pithy observations, physical comedy and outright contempt. There’s the depressed neighbour and a formerly overweight school friend adding to the list of freaks and ghouls that inhabit this particular version of Berlin’s urban circus. One thing this film doesn’t do is take itself too seriously and it’s all the more enjoyable for it.
Gerster’s directorial debut is a quaint and charming film that plays out like a series of comedy sketches or episodes that have been stretched out to reach the feature length. Some of these hit the mark more than others but you do have to remember that the whole shebang plays out like the lead has gotten out of the wrong side of bed. Fischer is on a journey to find normality in craziness in what is ultimately a contemporary and hip Berlin postcard.
Oh Boy is a fine looking film that is warm, charismatic and relatable as it celebrates some of life’s hurdles both big and small with recurring themes and jokes along the way. At times weird and at other moments silly but utterly pleasant, this film celebrates a passive onlooker that is an outsider in his own life. There’s a lot more happening beneath the surface than some mere, throwaway fun and in Oh Boy Jan Ole Gerster certainly proves that he is one director to watch.
Originally published on 17 June 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/sydney-film-festival-review-oh-boy-germany-2012
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