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September 21, 2017


Cole SmitheyJoachim Trier’s paranormal-inflected lesbian coming of age thriller zigs where it should zag. Eli Harboe plays the title character, a hard-bitten Christian girl from the country who tells her strict father “everything.” Never mind that he once wanted to kill Thelma when she was young. 

Now at college, Thelma experiences bizarre seizures seemingly set off by close proximity to Anja (Kaya Wilkins). Love at first sight isn’t such a good thing for Thelma who returns home after receiving a series of medical tests to diagnose her condition which has an ill effect on birds.


It turns out that Thelma’s paranormal control of objects and people has a malicious history. Still, Trier never gets specific in a narrative that demands specificity. What exactly are her powers and why does she have them? She doesn't seem to be a moral or ethical person in spite of her religious upbringing. Why does her father want to kill her, and why does she want to kill him? So many questions arise, but answers to not.

The performances are competent, but “Thelma” is a movie of ill-defined genre intentions. It fails as a love story, it fails as a thriller, it fails as social satire, and it fails as horror. What’s left is a two-hour hole where your life was before you watched this unsatisfying film from Norway.


Not Rated. 116 mins. (C-) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

What to Watch at the 55th New York Film Festival from Cole Smithey on Vimeo.

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