Billed as a gas station triptych, “Nogo” spins three separate stories about young couples obsessively bound together against the world, before uniting the six characters in an explosive finale. Debuting Austrian writer-directors Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl, whose background is in experimental films, create a stylish package with intriguing characters and situations, coolly composed visuals and a vigorous pace. Perhaps a little slavishly devoted to the hip aesthetics of the new German-language cinema spearheaded by Tom Tykwer, this amusing entry nonetheless could score on a modest scale with young European audiences.
A filling station in the middle of nowhere serves as the starting point in each story. First couple is station attendant Joe (Oliver Korittke) and passing customer Maria (Meret Becker), who stops for coffee. They spark up an increasingly suffocating relationship, barricading themselves inside the station and slowly succumbing to paranoia and fear of the outside world.
Second is mechanic Tom (Jurgen Vogel), who dreams of owning a gas station but lacks finances until his terminally ill wife, Lisa (Jasmin Tabatabai), decides to sell off her vital organs. The more awkwardly introduced and less convincing third chapter tracks two haphazard bank robbers (Mavie Horbiger, Michael Ostrowski), whose getaway car is stuck in the station’s garage.
Hiebler and Ertl intersect the three quirky scenarios at various points, then tidily stitch them together in a closing act that has fun underlining how the finely tuned dynamic of each of the three couples makes them ill-equipped to accommodate the wishes of outsiders. An appealing cast, sharp, controlled camerawork, eye-catching framing and the distinctive retro-look gas station setting keep this slight but entertaining vehicle on track.