Published Aug 09, 2012A commonality amongst films about drug addicts, whether recovering or indulging, is an overall distanced, solipsistic perspective that makes their plight unidentifiable for those with less dramatic modes of coping.
Stylization and gimmickry often obfuscate objective reality, much as the limited, guttural characterizations typically alienate the viewer from relating, which is where the strength of Norwegian director Joachim Trier's sophomore feature length film stems.
His deceptively simple story of Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), a recovering drug addict on leave from treatment to attend a job interview and briefly meet with friends and family, speaks to universal human truths beyond the physical act of taking recreational drugs.
Told in a mostly straightforward fashion, save the occasional voiceover diversion to contextualize his upbringing with uncharacteristically practical and intelligent parents, Anders revisits close friends, attends his job interview, meets with family and eventually questions his sobriety. What stands out from these encounters is a repeat tendency to run away and isolate, or an inclination to merely give up when life proves too challenging.
But rather than saddle the protagonist with a series of obstacles to reiterate the tired message of strength of will, Trier humanizes the secondary characters to a disturbingly relatable degree. Anders' old best friend, now married and with a child, similarly perceives life as a series of disappointments to overcome, which begs the question: "Why can he manage while Anders can't?"
Smartly, Trier doesn't try to answer this question, rather he shows how hard it is to confront past mistakes and move on when the world isn't on your side. We're not meant to pity Anders so much as we are to understand his struggle and appreciate that his addiction came from the same place that our anxieties and worldly disappointments stem.
The realist, handheld aesthetic drives home this notion of the daily human struggle, as does the fact that this man in the midst of an identity crisis is actually quite intelligent and capable, having a broad literary lexicon and a complex understanding of the world around him.
Humanized and ultimately rational and self-aware, his tendency towards self-doubt and loathing ― performed astutely by Danielsen Lie ― is as frustrating to the viewer as it is to the characters around him, compassionate towards his plight but saddled with their own baggage. (Films We Like)