“Oslo, August 31” passed virtually unnoticed last year amid a procession of high-profile blockbusters and Oscar darlings vying for the Academy’s attention, but here is a film whose stark, poetic intimacy deserves to be recognized, experienced, and treasured.
The film follows a day in the life of former drug addict Anders, leaving rehab for a job interview in Oslo, Norway. His prospects look promising, but Anders is stricken with a sense of unease, and as he navigates through the city, visiting old acquaintances and making new ones, we sense deep emotional wounds returning to take their toll on him.
Framed fascinatingly against a larger anthology of human stories based in Oslo, Anders’ 24-hour odyssey unfolds in surges of sadness and compassion. The film watches and listens, immersing us in one lovely scene after another. A conversation in the park. The clinking of glasses at a dinner party. A dreamy bike ride through empty city streets. Such scenes attain the quality of trance without losing the vitality of realism, a pitch-perfect tone that conveys Anders’ lonely, drifting state of mind. The entire film has an exquisite feel for character, dialogue, and the nuances of emotional tension, and the drama develops with a soft-spoken force. It’s a masterpiece of understated humanity, and it’s utterly unmissable.
Jeng is a member of the class of 2016.