As an actor, Anders Danielsen Lie has a frail, almost birdlike quality. He's like some creature plucked too soon from the nest, all skinny, pink, and trembling. Only here his character, Anders, has emerged from drug rehab to interview for a job at a literary magazine. Asked about the long recent gap in his resume, Anders halts and hesitates to explain—he doesn't want to embarrass the editor by being truthful. With its one-day time frame, Oslo puts its hero on a journey both through the city and his own past. Stills and voice-overs recount happier times from a variety of Oslo dwellers; Anders is just one man, but his trip is also a synecdoche for all of us trying to remember the good things in life—the reasons for living. Visiting friends who've settled into family and career, eavesdropping in cafes and the park, Anders is surrounded by ordinary, happy "morons" whom he may actually envy. "I'm a spoiled brat who fucked up," he tells a friend; and the movie's first scenes make his despair quite evident. Danielsen Lie previously appeared in director Joachim Trier's Reprise, and this film is no less intelligent and compact. It's based on an old novel by a French writer of the 1930s, with alcoholism changed to drug addiction, but the self-loathing remains the same. Anders may be smarter and more self-aware than your average junkie, but Trier has assigned himself a very narrow story with a harsh, predictable coda that hits you with a slap.
This is Danielsen Lie's second film with director Trier.
Opens Fri., June 8 at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated. 96 minutes.