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Review: Joachim Trier’s genre-bending Thelma will leave you chilled

Eili Harboe plays the protagonist and namesake in Thelma.


3 out of 4 stars

Written by
Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt
Directed by
Joachim Trier
Eili Harboe, Henrik Rafaelsen

The opening scene of Joachim Trier's genre-bending fourth feature and Norway's official Oscar entry for best foreign language film, Thelma, will leave you chilled. Trier (Oslo August 31st, Louder than Bombs) sets the bar high, and while the film doesn't entirely deliver on its start, the overall mood remains pricked by a similar sense of doom and shivering unease.

Set in both the wilds of Norway's countryside and later, in Oslo, Thelma follows the coming of age of its protagonist (the film's namesake, played with subtle, spooky apprehension by Eili Harboe) as she navigates a new chapter in her life having moved away from her fiercely protective parents to attend college. There she meets Anja (Kaya Wilkins). Their connection sparks something deep seated and perhaps long-harvesting in Thelma, who begins to experience seizure-like fits and powers unknown to her, entirely supernatural and dangerous.

Exploring themes such as control, connection, isolation, becoming and the effects of environment on a person's sense of self, Thelma poses more questions than it answers – suggesting Trier isn't in search of what can be known. Instead, Thelma, similar to the director's other films, portrays uncertainty as the ultimate suspense.

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