Oslo, August 31st

Oslo, August 31st ★★★★½

I'm going to be so disappointed when I see a bad Norwegian movie. This is my second ever, after last week's The Bothersome Man, and it doesn't hit a false note. Oslo, August 31st is the story of Anders, a recovering addict who's caught in a present that may as well be a chasm spanning his past and future. In an early scene, he attempts to kill himself. He changes his mind and returns to the quiet halfway house where he's been trying to get clean, move on, figure shit out. The next day he's given a day pass to go to Oslo and decides to do some haunting.

I had a feeling I was going to love this movie from its opening moments. Unnamed, unconnected voices recount moments of their lives in Oslo. This is a movie that dwells in its memories. Anders' day-long odyssey through Oslo is a dull echo of his own past, a rote recreation of pastimes and acquaintances. He can barely imagine his future, and what he can is informed too heavily from the past, too, as evidenced by one too many phonecalls to an ex-girlfriend about maybe, possibly reconnecting.

He doesn't get to talk to her, or his parents or his sister on his day in Oslo; everyone he interacts with is someone on the margins, or who's been reduced to, the margins of his life, and was probably better off staying there. Among the many things Oslo gets amazingly right in all these encounters are the alienation and painful nostalgia that accompany them. And it understands the seeming ephemeral details that stick with us and sometimes are all that's left of entire moments in time.

One of my favorite scenes is the one where Anders is sitting in a cafe just listening to the patrons around him, particularly the girl reciting her list of life goals. Somehow it hits the perfect bittersweet tone without being calculated.

So anyway, it should go without saying that this movie is devastating.

December challenge - 42/100

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