What I’ve Been Missing (or Not), Volume 4: Oslo, August 31st (2011)

Directed by: Joachim Trier
Starring: Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olav Brenner, Ingrid Olava

Subtlety can go a long way, especially if a particular film manages to cover all it’s bases in dealing with the touchy subject matter at hand. In the case of Oslo, August 31st, director Joachim Trier deftly sidesteps trite melodrama by artfully painting an agreeably bleak portrait of a recovering drug addict struggling to find a sense of purpose. Where 2006’s Reprise faltered in terms of its sometimes self-indulgent quirkiness, Trier’s latest remains steadfastly subdued despite the obvious severity of the central character’s condition, ensuring us that the writer/director’s intentions are made abundantly clear early on in and throughout the proceedings.

Oslo grimly opens with its troubled male lead, Anders, attempting to commit suicide by drowning. As to be expected, you can’t quite blame the guy; he’s in his thirties, penniless and midway through a stint in rehab after carelessly ostracizing himself from those who’ve cared for him through thick and thin. When Anders is granted a temporary leave of absence following his landing a job interview, he decidedly makes his rounds among friends and mutual acquaintances to routinely play catch-up while passively attempting to get his priorities in check.

As a well above average character study, this is the point where Trier proves his worth as an avid admirer of the more sullen aspects of the human condition. Through alternating instances of narration and the aforementioned reunions with estranged loved ones, we as viewers can truly grasp how Anders’ frustration with his life’s undesirable trajectory is slowly chipping away at his already fragile resolve. Bouts of self-deprecation become a welcome constant as Anders is more or less forced to dwell on his shortcomings and lack of long-term goals in relation to those around him, prompting us to wonder just when he’s going to crack and to what degree.

Oslo never once feels unauthentic in its depiction of an individual at the end of his rope, even as Anders predictably relapses whilst continuously reconnecting with those less intent on seeing him achieve total sobriety, alienating the glaringly more positive influences in the process. His ongoing predicament and sentiments pertaining to himself being nothing more than human garbage are heartbreakingly relatable, and the performances on display speak for themselves as events unfold at a reasonable clip. All things considered, Oslo, August 31st truly delivers in its final moments, culminating wonderfully as Anders not-so-reluctantly admits defeat at the hands of his debilitating disease. As to be expected, it isn’t the happiest offering of yesteryear, but as a masterful examination of an aimless, helpless and self-defeating addict, Joachim Trier’s criminally under seen gem is agreeably divisive, but for the willing, the film is assuredly worth your time.


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