Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
It’s hard to say I ‘like’ Oslo, August 31st as it’s just so damn sad. Sad in a completely uncontrived, realistic way. It’s the type of sad that gets under your skin and chills your soul.
I knew right from the beginning that Anders end was fait accompli. What affected me most were Andres’s reflexive spasms in the form of small cries for help. Even if answered, I know the help would not have been accepted. As the day progresses, even these basic instincts of self preservation dwindle.
Just after I finished watching, I wished that the second half of the film was more like the first. While the first half was unique and soul wrenching, I thought that the second was more predictable and conventional. Now, since a day has passed, this doesn’t bother me. I think the ‘turn’, and the subtle change in style was intentional and necessary. The morning was circling the drain, the evening was the plunge.
Two scenes stood out for me. The first being when Anders was overhearing conversations while sitting in the restaurant. Hearing, but not listening. Growing farther away. The second was the bike scene in the pre-dawn streets of Oslo. It was magical, and all the more poignant because Anders, at this point, is oblivious to such joy and magic.
Trier was completely authentic, as were his cast. It reminded me of Heneke’s Amour for that authenticity. While sad, Amour showed you dignity and the human spirit. Oslo, August 31st .. the loss of those things.