For Jojo is a cringe comedy with melancholy notes and an ending that respects the audience. Barbara Ott’s film is a hidden gem.
This review of the Netflix film For Jojo does not contain spoilers.
For Jojo (Paule ve Jojo), the new German Netflix film from director Barbara Ott (Kids Run), is an often-hilarious behavioral case study on attachment disorder. She may also have the worst case of arrested development since Buster Bluth had his hand bitten clean off by a seal and zipped up Lucille’s dress. The script, by Stephanie Ren (Cleo), is never afraid to keep pushing boundaries to their limits. However, best friends can get through anything, right? At least, that’s how most movies or television programs end. With Ren’s script, no matter how outlandish the behaviors of one person can be, there is no sugar coating the fragility of human relationships.
You have Jojo (Nin Gummich) and Paula (Caro Cult), two childhood friends who were inseparable as children. Often playing on the beach every day, no matter the weather. Today, these two millennials are in a bit of a rut. Or more like Jojo keeps trying to climb out only for Paula to pull her back by her ankles and never let go. You know that old adage if you love something set it free? However, Paula smothers it until it gives up forever and cannot escape. Think Annie Wilkes, but instead of restraints and physical abuse, she gaslights and manipulates her best friend into ruining her relationship.
Jojo’s newest boyfriend is not a fling, and Paula feels threatened. Why? Because since her mother killed herself, which she blames on her parent’s marriage, Jojo has been her security blanket. Early in the film, when Paula sees Jojo having sex with a guy she brought home from the bar, she interrupts them, and the guy takes off. When Jojo and Paula run into Daniel (Steve Sowah) at the airport, the chemistry between him and Jojo is apparent. She tries to prevent them from walking together to the security and gate. Paula went to law school for six years and never passed her final exam. She has no job. She needs to borrow money all the time. To make matters worse, when Jojo returns to Berlin, she has news — she is engaged to be married.
For Jojo is funny and always is grounded by being humorous, but never turning into a farce. The film accomplishes this by letting Paula tumble down the rabbit hole of self-destruction that is realistic and rare to achieve in a comedy where you will find yourself watching in disbelief. Cult does a wonderful job showing borderline personality traits without any unnecessary exposition from Ren’s script. As we said above, she has clear issues with feelings of emptiness. She also has a history of unstable relationships and is absolutely terrified of being alone. All of this is explained with a single look of overwhelming fear and anxiety. However, Cult still can juggle comedy and be extremely funny. How else would you describe Paula befriending Sam’s ex, Ellin (played by Anne Zander)? She strategically uses her to undercut her best friend’s trust in her new fiancé.
This is all explained by Paula’s childhood issues with her mother’s suicide and issues with her father (he had substance abuse and possible suffering from another mental health disorder), which feels authentic while still a comedy. The ending may be open to interpretation when Paula can communicate her emotions. However, this is a cringe comedy with notes of melancholy and an ending that respects its audience. Jojo is a hidden gem and demands to be streamed.
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