In Oslo, August 31, Anders is a recovering drug addict that takes leave from a treatment facility and heads home where his recovery is tested.
Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) has been living in a treatment facility for drug addiction rehabilitation. On August 31st, he is given day leave for a job interview. Before the interview, he stops by his old friend, Thomas’ (Hans Olav Brenner) house. He also meets with his sister’s girlfriend, Rebecca (Ingrid Olava) and learns that his sister is frightened of him and blames him for their parents sale of their house. During the job interview, Anders lashes out when pressed about his past and storms out. He wanders around Oslo and eventually runs into old acquaintances and old habits.
Oslo, August 31 is a striking film on several levels but perhaps the most striking to me is that it so closely resembles a documentary at times. Visually, Oslo, August 31 is stunning and the film gives an incredibly intimate look into the life of Anders, but we still don’t know much about him outside of his drug addiction. As the film progresses, we learn bits and pieces about his past through conversations with people he grew up with and we learn about his personality in the way that he carries himself. We also learn about his struggle with drugs and alcohol and see that his self-image is shredded so far gone that his addiction has replaced most of what makes Anders himself. We don’t know Anders outside what happens on that day and yet we learn so much.
Throughout Oslo, August 31, I was wondering where exactly the film was headed and why and when the credits began to roll I immediately wanted to start the film over and fill in the pieces and small nuances I may have missed. I refrained from doing this, largely due to the time that would eat up, but also because I felt it would have destroyed some of the magic behind a film where nothing really happens in terms of plot, but there is still so much going on, whether it be unspoken or assumed.
While it’s not a film I would outright recommend to everyone, Oslo, August 31 was very profound to me. I really adore a well crafted, character-driven film and Oslo, August 31 is a film that seemingly does everything right. Much like Umberto D., I never thought the camera was trying to gain sympathy in a manipulative fashion, which really pushes the intensity of the actors through. I wish more films were made these days that felt they could focus on just a character and still be captivating. Many indie movies try this but fail to be very interesting other than a quirk of the character or rely too much on humor. Oslo, August 31 is a very touching, human story of a young man and doesn’t try to be anything else.
I give it 4 swimming in the Frognerbadet out of 5.