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Director: Jaochim Trier
Starring: Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Henrik Rafaelsen
Length: 1hr 56m
This review comes from the Leeds International Film Festival 2017.
Thelma is a psychological thriller framed around the coming of age of our eponymous heroine. The tone is set from the beginning with disturbing imagery amongst a beautiful snowy landscape. Add to this the epilepsy-inducing title reveal (the film comes with a warning) and we're locked in, our attention is undivided, and we're ready to dive in.
'Proceed with caution' should perhaps be the call however, as there is very little respite from the film's opening fractious nature. Religion, sex and family all play significant roles in Thelma's life, and her desperate attempts to self-define take her to many an unexpected place. The disturbing content is amplified by the craft on show; particularly Olivier Bugge Coutte's editing and the performance of our lead Eili Harboe, whose performance captures the essence of a confused, young woman in a confusing world.
The most enjoyable aspect of the film was the cohesiveness of the plot. It poses questions to the audience and then answers them not comprehensively (for that would be no fun at all) but sufficiently, keeping us happy without spoiling the effect of the film. There are also some gasp-inducing character revelations which work really well despite almost certainly seeming ridiculous on the page. Indeed, there seemed to be plenty of untapped potential in said revelations, and to exploit it certainly would have been to the film's advantage. As it is, the ending falls slightly flat though it didn't necessarily take away too much from the overall effect.
It is not a perfect film and the form and subject matter will put-off many an audience member, but what Joachim Trier has created here is a memorable psychological thriller with plenty of punch and unrelentless ferocity that it makes no apology for whatsoever. And neither should it.