Joachim Trier has proven himself to be an especially thoughtful director with Louder Than Bombs and Oslo, August 31st, but his new horror film Thelma almost strains under the weight of too many ideas. (The unimaginative, single-word character title is also a step backward, but that’s another matter entirely.) Thelma (Eili Harboe) is a sheltered young woman who leaves home to attend college, although her conservative Christian parents Trond (Henrik Rafaelsen) and Unni (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) still keep her on a relatively short leash. When she finds herself attracted to toothsome fellow student Anja (Kaya Wilkins), Thelma begins to experience seizures, and not-so-latent supernatural abilities start to manifest. Like Louder Than Bombs, Thelma is concerned with how grief motivates people, but some of the other themes get in the way. The parents’ strict religiosity doesn’t really serve a narrative purpose, though neither does a brief topless shot of Harboe, but Trier is in there all the same. In the end, Thelma is of a descendent of Jerome Bixby’s endlessly fertile “It’s a Good Life,” while also featuring one of the best horror-movie tropes: the second-act research scene in which the protagonist tries to figure out what’s going on. No movie can be all bad with one of those scenes, and Thelma’s already pretty good.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.