(director/writer: Halfdan Ullmann Tendel; cinematographer: Pal Ulvik Rokseth; editor: Robert Krantz; music: Ella van der Woude; cast: Renate Reinsve (Elisabeth, Mother), Ellen Dorrit Petersen (Sarah), Oystein Roger (Jarie), Janne Heltberg (Annelise), Endre Hellestveit (Anders), Vera Veljovic-Jovanovic (Ajsa), Thea Lambrechts Vaulen (Sunna); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Andrea Berentsen Ottmar; Eye Eye Pictures; 2024-Norway-in Norwegian, with English subtitles)

“Reinsve’s performance is stunning, peculiar and enigmatic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of the Norwegian director Halfdan Ullmann Tendel, the grandson of  Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann. Tendel’s convoluted psychological school drama is set almost entirely in a primary school.

Elisabeth (Renate Reinsve, starred in The Worst Person in the World2021) is the protective mother of the six-year-old primary school student Armand, who faces the parents of Armand’s classmate Jon, Sarah (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) and Anders (Endre Hellestveit), after their son accuses him of sexually attacking him. We later learn Sarah and Elizabeth are sister-in-laws. The meeting between them is run by junior teacher Sunna (Thea Lambrechts Vaulen).

Elisabeth is frustrated when not told what actually happened in their awkward meeting, as the truth is not clearly explained because nobody knows what happened.

Where the film was heading with this fuzzy story had me baffled.

It concludes with Elisabeth having a bizarre uncontrollable laughing fit in the climax. Reinsve’s performance is stunning, peculiar and enigmatic. But I must have missed what’s so funny, as I tried seeing it again and still was left scratching my head. This is not an arthouse film, just a loopy one that probably has no audience for it.   

It played at the Cannes Film Festival.