Movie Review: Thelma

By Thom Compton 21.10.2017

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Thelma (UK Rating: 15)

A father and daughter walk into the woods in the dead of winter. In the distance, they see a doe, grazing peacefully. The daughter is transfixed by the animal, while the father takes aim at it. This moment of serenity, at least for the hunters, is broken by a much darker moment, and thus Thelma begins. One part supernatural thriller, one part love story, Thelma, directed by Joachim Trier, is an elegant tale that occasionally tries to be smarter than it needs to be. This results in cryptic story telling that's not always for the best. The movie launches across the UK cinema circuit on Friday 3rd November.

Thelma is a young woman, trying to survive the rigours of university life, who suddenly begins experiencing seizures. Meanwhile, mysterious things begin happening around her. She begins to develop feelings for a classmate, Anja, which proceeds to bring her a tremendous amount of stress. This is largely due to her religious background, particularly her father's. Her father, Trond, is a constant cause of stress for Thelma, who seems constantly concerned with his approval.

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Thelma does a good job pacing itself, slowly unravelling the mystery behind the seizures, as well as the horrifying events that seem to be taking place around her. The revelation of what her powers are exactly is a little underwhelming, but it isn't phoned in. In the context of the film, it makes complete sense. However, with how much symbolism is used, it's amazingly simple.

The budding relationship between Thelma and Anja feels remarkably organic, and the profound impact it has on Thelma's life is fascinating. It's just a shame so much of the almost two hour run time is spent trying to seem so much deeper than it actually ends up being. Its overuse of misdirection in smaller scenes makes it annoying the third or fourth time it happens. Many of the scenes, including one in a pool, and one where Thelma tries to mimic the behaviour of her peers, don't even make any sense when you stand back and view them as pieces of the larger mechanism.

This is a shame because the plot is genuinely creative. While the attempts at profundity are largely unnecessary, they don't manage to ruin the film as a whole. This is in part thanks to the cast, who is unbelievably good - specifically Eili Harboe, who plays the titular Thelma, and Henrik Rafaelsen, who plays Trond. While no cast member appears less capable than their peers, these two deserve the greatest adjective and cliché film critics have ever assigned to an actor's performance: spellbinding.

The dialogue is fantastic, coming off as genuine and human. At no point does it seem contrived or pre-planned. If you were to say that a lot of the movie was ad libbed, while the actor was being filmed unaware, it would be a completely believable statement. Mixed in with brilliant cinematography, and a brilliant score, Thelma stands out as being both brilliant and subtle in its execution. Music is only used when absolutely needed, and the end result is all the better for it.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Thelma only stumbles when it tries to exceed its reach. It flourishes when it utilises its simple, but unique, premise and doesn't try to be more symbolic than it needs to be. This is a standout film that audiences should not overlook, even if it occasionally tries to grasp for too much.

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