“I suspect the films of Joachim Trier speak particularly to anyone with literary ambitions, anyone who knows what it’s like to be besotted by a work of art and anyone who wants to create something strong and beautiful and true. The director has an uncanny eye for the worries of sad young men afflicted with dreaminess about art and ideas, the same sort of disease written about in Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer or Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. His exuberant, French New Wave–influenced debut, Reprise, is the story of two boyish twenty-something writers wrestling with literary ambitions and madness. Reprise is charming, formally daring, and focused on youthful folly; in Oslo, August 31st, the folly is over, and it’s time for the morning after.
Oslo, August 31st could easily be a downer or a drag, and certainly it’s not afraid to look at its protagonist evenly: he’s a self-destructive drug addict, a liar, a selfish, spoiled brat who left a trail of destruction in his wake—but more importantly, the film is empathetic. Moments of empathy are why we need art. It’s why film can be a communion. I find that feeling comes less and less these days.”