Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) puts rocks in his pockets, picks up a very large stone and walks into a lake. He's on a day pass from drug rehab, he has a job interview later that day, but mostly he just wants to die. We join him in progress as he approaches the end of his time kicking his addictions, experiencing the pain of the moment when the fullness of the destruction he's caused outside the Norwegian facility's protective walls is starting to feel less like a dream starring someone else and more like a real past full of maimed victims.
This is the opening scene of the movie, by the way. And he fails to take his own life. But not to worry, gloom fans, it gets much more intensely sad quickly enough.
The second feature from director Joachim Trier -- the first was the equally stark Reprise, in which Anders Danielsen Lie played a young novelist coping with success by suffering a total breakdown -- is a calm, controlled, sometimes silent examination of overwhelming remorse. And though his lead actor is a new character in a new story, you wouldn't be far off the mark if you thought of it as a kind of sequel to Reprise, another chapter in how not to happily grow into functional adulthood.
Anders blows that job interview, of course, and spends the remainder of his 24 hours drifting around Oslo, reconnecting with old friends -- most of whom give him that split-second Oh no, not this guy again face before quickly recovering whatever shred of exhausted concern they used to have for the damaged man. But his family is absent. All we learn is that his mother and father are selling his childhood home, possibly due to their destructive son's toll, and that his sister is too nervous to meet with him. She sends a friend on the task instead. And as his day comes to a close, it becomes clear that Anders isn't ready for real life again just yet, maybe not ever, and no apology will fix what he's broken.
Right, yes, another film about a drug addict in a downward spiral. You saw Requiem for a Dream, you say. You did your time. But there are no jumpy refrigerators here. No live sex shows performed out of desperation. No agonized catharsis, no histrionic soliloquies, no shrieking or sentimentality, no druggy camera work. It's too precise, detailed, chilly and mournful for that kind of thing. And while those melancholy details make it genuine and genuinely heartbreaking, it's Trier's skill at humanely communicating the deep loneliness of a ruined life that make him a new filmmaker deserving your attention.