A film that proves German comedy can be funny, “When the Right Man Comes Along” takes a light-hearted but respectful look at a cleaning lady from Mannheim who follows her love to the outer edges of Turkey, much to the latter’s surprise. This first feature co-directed by Swiss Oliver Paulus and German Stefan Hillebrand sails merrily on the bare bones of a story with spontaneity and some truly exhilarating moments. Winning a special mention from San Sebastian’s New Directors’ jury, it’s well worth a look for small distribs and festivals.
In the shopping center where they clean floors, tall, lanky Paula (Isolde Fischer) takes her breaks with her petite co-worker Ayten (Tulay Gonen). But when a new watchman appears, the friendly hulk Mustafa (Can Sengul), Paula decides she’d rather share her lunch with him. With meager encouragement, she turns up at his favorite bar in a frilly dress that doesn’t go down well with the boys. To soothe her feelings, Mustafa politely buys her a box of chocolates.
Suddenly he’s gone. At the urging of her pushy older friend Mrs. von Dewitz (Helga Grimme), the heartbroken Paula rings his doorbell and discovers that his father has sent him back to Adana, Turkey.
Final act unspools in the big, dusty city on the border of Syria. Deserted by Mrs. von Dewitz, Paula has made the trip alone and without any idea of how to find her lost love. After vainly tramping around town, she is befriended by a hotel clerk (Arcan Arican). Ending is unguessable but uplifting.
Paulus and Hillebrand — who worked together on the much-prized short film “Die Wurstverkauferin” — shot without a script, relying on improvisation and editing to move the film along. This may account for its amusing acting and narrative freshness. Stage actress Fischer (the only pro in the cast) gives awkward Paula a note of crazy optimism that dazes, rather than dazzles, the deadpan Sengul as her unwilling paramour. Grimme, playing the eccentric Mrs. von Dewitz, has a fine moment when she invites Paula to a beauty salon and then ankles before the bill arrives.
Cinematographer/co-producer Mathias Schick takes documentary liberties with a handheld DV cam, shooting quickly and weaving fluidly through the characters. Editor Andre Bigoudi gets the comic timing just right. Sets, like extras, are kept to a minimum.