At first glance Oh Boy seems to be an oh-too-earnest homage to a Woody Allen staple – the neurotic, put-upon introvert/extrovert. Thankfully, it’s not. Shot in black and white, the risk of incredibly boring parody is high. But unlike most films on unfulfilled adulthood from the post-Ghost World era, Oh Boy skilfully navigates its way out of this pigeonhole for a new, unblemished look at a popular trope. With an amazing performance by the adorable Tom Schilling as lead character Niko, the film doesn’t try to outsmart its audience or glaze its sincerity with sugary levels of irony – or try too hard to do the opposite.
Guided by a pitch-perfect jazz soundtrack, we watch our hero meander through a day and night in Berlin, unable to catch a break from his girlfriend, his therapist, his father or overeager baristas. Niko’s gift/curse is to be the sounding board for the other characters as well as the punching bag for daily life’s little potshots.
Schilling’s underplayed character allows the psychoses of those around him to bubble up into perfect comedy, getting laughs from melancholy and arousing sympathy for the young man who seems resigned to not ever being able to make sense of it all. Set this all in one of the best portrayals of contemporary Berlin ever (not too hipster postcard, not too Christiane F.), and you’ve got something destined to be an international art-house hit.
Oh Boy | Directed by Jan Ole Gerster (Germany 2012) with Tom Schilling, Friederike Kempter, Marc Hoseman. Starts November 1