Movie Review: Thelma

Horror has always housed a wide variety of styles within it, ranging from grand guignol splatterfests to slower, more cerebral fare. This entry from Norwegian writer / director Joachim Trier falls firmly into the latter camp, and could even easily be described as more of a drama with supernatural elements than a horror film, though the consistently eerie mood throughout would argue for it’s inclusion in the genre.

The movie follows title character Thelma (Eili Harboe) as she arrives at a university in Oslo. She has had a strict religious upbringing, and feels awkward and alone among her classmates. During a study period she experiences a seizure and fellow student Anja (Kaya Wilkins) reaches out to her in kindness. The two become friends and soon form a romantic connection, all while Thelma seeks out medical advice about the seizures, which also seem to cause odd occurrences in her surroundings. As she learns more about her condition, she discovers that her parents Trond (Henrik Rafaelsen) and Unni (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) had been keeping parts of her childhood and family history from her.

This is a very slow-burn horror film, that relies far more on mood and atmosphere than violence or large set pieces, which means that it is very dependent on the performances to make it work. The cast here is more than up for the challenge, ably portraying the confusion, sadness, and fear that they are put through. The gorgeous cinematography and evocative score further enhance the tone. As the pieces of a particular traumatic event in Thelma’s childhood come to light, it’s not too hard to put together exactly what happened, though that doesn’t lessen the impact of seeing it finally revealed. While it does go to some dark and disturbing places, the movie doesn’t linger on them, instead focusing on a young woman discovering who she really is after years of having had her true self repressed by those around her; but with more than enough moral gray area to make that not quite the happy ending that it sounds like. ★★★★

Available on Kanopy.

Not Rated. Contains violence, language, smoking, strong sexuality, nudity, and disturbing images.

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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