Recovering addict Anders searches over 24 hours in Oslo for meaning in old haunts, broken connections, and new possibilities in this beautiful exploration of what it takes to be a living person. Danish filmmaker Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st is loosely based on Pierre Drieu La Rochelle’s 1931 novel Le Feu Follet (The Fire Within), which was filmed by Louis Malle in 1963. Trier (in the follow-up to his acclaimed 2006 drama Reprise) cannily updates the original’s theme of existential angst for a new generation.
Anders Danielsen Lie (Reprise) gives a seemingly effortless performance of emotional complexity as a 34 year-old man contemplating suicide. He’s given a day to leave his rehab facility for a job interview, during which he reconnects with people from his past. Formerly hell-raising friends now have kids. Other bridges seem irrevocably burned. As Anders goes for a walk, visits a party and a nightclub, we learn things he likes: music, “Swedish chicks”, writing, champagne. At a café, he eavesdrops on a woman reading her life goals out loud. Adding to the film’s humanity are montages of Oslo locations, voiceovers of childhood experiences, and a sequence that evokes the playful, all-night wanderings of La Dolce Vita. As Anders searches for new love and new life, he awakens to the possibility, however complicated, of a second chance at happiness.