Having heard about Thelma for the past few months, I finally had the chance to see it recently, wary of the fact that so many people had given it some glowing praise, most often comparing it to a mix of Carrie and more straightforward films about teenagers transitioning into a more mature stage in their lives, exploring sexuality and figuring out how they want to be making their first impressions upon the world as full adults.
First of all, although I can see why the comparison has been made, Thelma has less in common with Carrie and more in common with the classic episode of The Twilight Zone called "It's A Good Life". You know the one. The boy who can make anything happen, leading to his parents and everyone else living in fear of him. It was also the segment directed by Joe Dante for the movie version.
Yes, Thelma feels more in line with that tale, not in the actual content but more to do with the feelings of the characters who live with the young woman at the centre of the story. And I guess I should summarise that story.
Elli Harboe is Thelma, a young woman who has lived quite a sheltered life. She is trying to acclimatise to student life while also figuring out the feelings she seems to be developing for another young woman (Anja, played by Kaya Wilkins). When things start to weigh too heavily on her mind, Thelma has seizures. She also inadvertently changes the location of various people around her, depending on who she is thinking of. And that's not good for the people who may find themselves, well, suddenly unable to be found by anyone else.
Written by Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier, with the latter also directing, Thelma is a very deliberately paced film that slowly reveals some tense and horrifying moments through flashbacks that show how Thelma (played at a younger age by Grethe Eltervåg) has affected her parents (Henrik Rafaelsen and Ellen Dorrit Petersen), and why she is often treated the way she is. The style throughout is slightly removed and chilly, which suits both the way in which some view Thelma and also the way in which she seems to be observing a world around her that she suspects she may be able to completely change if she finds that's what she really wants.
The acting from all involved is excellent. Thelma (played by Harboe, or Eltervåg), is most often the focus, and both actresses play her with a wonderful mix of innocence and cool detachment, but Rafaelsen and Petersen also get to excel in scenes that show the burden they must carry throughout their lives. Wilkins does well in her role, making it easy for viewers to believe that Thelma would be drawn to the warmth and general loveliness of her character.
A rewarding viewing experience that shows general teen angst while also occasionally revealing the horrific repercussions of an unchecked supernatural power, Thelma is highly recommended for more patient fans of the horror genre, those who may enjoy something different from the norm without clamouring for a bodycount or bombastic set-pieces.
You can buy Thelma here.
Americans can watch it on Amazon here.