September 18, 2012

Filthy Review - 'Oslo, August 31st'

Oslo, August 31st (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

The world of addiction is something that not many of us truly understand. Films and television shows quite often portray events of the actual addiction itself and its direct effects, but we don’t always see the long-term repercussions of this sickness. In Joachim Trier’s 2011 film, Oslo, August 31st, we join 34 year old Anders during one day of his life, as he struggles with his rehabilitation.

Anders has been spending time in a rehab facility for his addictions, and during the latter stages of this he is granted leave to travel to Oslo to attend a job interview to help him integrate himself back into society. He sees this as an opportunity to visit friends and family, in an attempt to make good some of the bad he has done.

As the film progresses we learn more of Anders and his past indiscretions and outrageous lifestyle; from alienating his friends to the terrible financial mistakes he made, which in turn had a direct effect on his family. The more time he spends on the outside, the harder he finds it to stay on the straight and narrow and, rather than give the viewer all the answers, Triers plays his cards close to his chest and just lets the story flow without giving us any absolutes.

Oslo, August 31st really is a charming movie; it doesn’t dwell on the negatives or portray Anders and his life in an overly depressing style. In fact the film plays along in a very matter of fact manner, with the emphasis being on the dialogue and the interaction between Anders and those he encounters. Long shots, sometimes without any real dialogue which help to emphasize Anders sense of isolation, pepper the film and the realization that he is actually an incredibly smart guy who has squandered the potential in his life.

This is far from being an action packed movie; it just isn’t that sort of film. It’s a character study and some viewers might find the pacing to be a little slow for their liking. Personally speaking, I found myself engrossed in the storyline, as it slowly unfolds, and really felt for Anders.

Now, this might sound like a really downbeat film from what I have mentioned above, but it really isn’t. It doesn’t dwell on the morose and it certainly never paints the situation as one in which you should feel pity for. This is a matter of fact tale, told in a matter of fact manner. There are moments of humor and levity in here, along with a sense that all isn’t right for Anders. This is where Triers really succeeds though; he isn’t asking you to make any judgments or sway your thoughts in either direction. It is just a case of this is how it is, and it is up to Anders to make his own decisions.

I thought the movie was quite terrific, from the wonderful dialogue and very real performances, through to the accompanying score and a look at two sides of the city of Oslo. It is the sort of film that each viewer will take something different from, and I really think it will reward the patient viewer with a rich tale.

Oslo, August 31st is smart, uplifting, bleak and thought provoking and really is worth your while checking out. Just don’t go in expecting something like Leaving Las Vegas or Trainspotting, as this isn’t that sort of film. This film is more about the futility of hope, rather than the downward spiral that precedes it. Oslo, August 31st is quite a superb slice of cinema.

Oslo, August 31st is released on DVD by Strand Releasing and is available now.

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