The transition from childhood to adulthood is hard at the best of times. There are new freedoms, new responsibilities, a minefield of social norms and rules to learn. There are new friendships to negotiate, emerging sexuality, new experiences and temptations. And there’s the self-discovery too: exploring who you are, and where you fit into the world. It’s tough, and it’s confusing. But what if you also had a developing paranormal ability to deal with? Particularly if it was dangerous. Lethal, even.
Leaving home for the first time to attend university, Thelma has a lot more to find out about herself than her peers do. She soon feels split and conflicted, caught between her religious upbringing and over-protective parents, her scientific education, and the exciting new temptations of campus life. Her new friend, Anja, being one of them.
Anja’s arrival coincides with Thelma suffering seizures. Seizures that, as an investigation into her medical records reveals, she also suffered from as a child. In a series of flashbacks and Thelma’s search to uncover the truth, we learn that her abilities are far more heartbreaking than we could have imagined.
The timely reveal is beautifully scripted, and the desperate actions of her parents seem suddenly proportionate. Thelma’s past shows us exactly how dangerous she can be.
Just when it seems that no one is going to leave this movie unscathed, it quietly draws to its conclusion, leaving a collection of questions and unresolved emotions in its wake. It’s one of those films that will give everyone a different message, and maybe I’d feel differently watching it again.
To be honest, if it had finished just two minutes earlier, I would have rewarded it with an extra star. For me, the ending became a somewhat pious lesson in the dangers of trying to mould your children, of not letting them be who they truly are. It seemed a little overzealous in hammering the moral home. But I’m not convinced that everyone would read it that way.
Thelma is a wonderfully dark and menacing coming-of-age story. Give it a go , and see where your sympathies lie.
Dir: Joachim Trier
Scr: Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier
Cast: Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Henrik Rafaelsen, Ellen Dorrit Petersen
Prd: Sigve Endresen
Music: Ola Fløttum
Run time: 116 minutes
Thelma is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 26th February.