Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. You go through a breakup/divorce, enduring tying up all the loose ends that entails, you have to move back in with your family, all while tolerating a mind-numbing job just to allow you the time for your true passion. What if though, on top of all of that, your father whom you’ve never met decides to re-enter your adult life? So goes the story of Aham (Ahamefule J. Oluo, as a dramatized version of himself) in the new film Thin Skin, as he perseveres through trials that combined might break most people.

A Harmonious Tale of Dysfunction

By day, Aham lives a life most of us can relate to. He works a nine-to-five in a cubicle farm that sucks your soul away just looking at it (and in the process, proving that Office Space truly is timeless), overseen by a way-too-chipper boss (Jennifer Lanier, in perhaps my favorite performance of the film). He lives in a cramped home with his two daughters, his sister Ijeoma (also as herself), and their eccentric mother (Annette Toutonghi), who has an affinity for African attire and a snakeskin scrapbook. Everything around Aham seems to be falling apart, until he finds his way back to the Seattle nightclub where he beautifully plays the trumpet with a jazz combo. Every musician who’s performed live has felt it at some point: that euphoria when you hit that first note and let the sound waves carry your troubles away. All Aham wants to do is be a good dad, play his music, and close his fucking joint bank account.

source: BayView Entertainment

Out of nowhere, he and his sister get a letter from their long-estranged father. Neither had heard from him since they were young children, and here they sit with a phone number to hear his voice once more. Aham decides to make the call, and after hearing about Ijeoma and her degree, their father becomes incredibly disappointed that Aham is a musician who doesn’t want a traditional career path. Such vehement derision of what he holds so dearly sends him spiraling, and just as he tries to put himself on a fast-track at work – making his boss very proud in the process – he falls devastatingly ill, furthering his descent into misfortune.

From the beginning, Thin Skin pulls you in with its cinematography and match-cut from Aham warming up to being in the middle of a set. Then it keeps you there with its wit and humor (thanks to a script co-written by Oluo, director Charles Mudede, and Shrill co-creator Lindy West), and before you know it you’re hooked into these characters. You would never know that Ahamefule and Ijeoma aren’t actors, both shining along with the rest of the cast at every turn. The story is loosely based on the former’s Off-Broadway, semi-autobiographical show and an episode of This American Life chronicling his story, which no doubt lends authenticity to their performances, but also they’re just genuinely good and funny. Their interactions with their mother are some of the best in the film, and Toutonghi’s performance is worthy of her own sitcom to see more of her character, but every character has at least a line or two that packs a punch. 

source: BayView Entertainment

Unsurprisingly, music is a huge part of this film, composed by Ahamefule, and features many beautiful performances from him and others, almost as bumpers or interludes from chapter to chapter, with a final number that leaves me looking forward to a soundtrack release on vinyl. What surprised me was the way that Aham’s illness is handled. During that section of the film, the tone becomes tense and discomforting as we watch him endure painful afflictions that prevent him from performing any music, let alone speaking sometimes, and requires a bit of at-home surgery. The repetition of this cycle of suffering was unpleasant, as it’s meant to be, but I found myself wondering when Mudede would be doing a horror film to make use of such skillful squirm-inducing filmmaking that I’d be first in line for.


Thin Skin is a delightful film, equal parts heart and humor with the thematic motif of passion and tenacity that speaks to every creative. The family dynamic, and their love for each other despite frustrations, grounds the film with touching moments between the almost surreal comedic situations Aham finds himself in (especially with a maddeningly inept doctor, played by Hari Kondabolu). With a very limited theater release this month and VOD to follow, give this film a watch however and whenever you can.

Visit Thin Skin’s website for information about theatrical screenings beginning November 16, and the film will see its VOD release on November 28.

Does content like this matter to you?

Become a Member and support film journalism. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about cinema – get access to our private members Network, give back to independent filmmakers, and more.

Join now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.