Written by Caballero Oscuro
Erik and Phillip are lifelong friends with similar aspirations to become published writers. As the film opens, they both nervously mail off their individual manuscripts in the hopes of landing success on their first attempt. Unfortunately, only one of them gets an offer, which leads to a shift in their dynamic as well as many other changes. What starts out as a simple act expands into an enlightening rumination on the nature of friendship, success, and romance.
Rather than elevating him to a new level, Phillip’s immediate literary triumph and public acclaim, coupled with an obsessive relationship with a girl named Kari, lead him into a downward spiral of depression and removal from society. Within six months of his book’s publication, he’s been institutionalized and is just beginning to take his first tenuous steps back toward a normal existence. He also tries to reconnect with Kari, going so far as taking her to Paris to completely re-enact their initial courtship, right down to restaging previous photographs. In spite of his best intentions, it’s clear that he’s still deeply disturbed and in danger of completely burning out at any moment.
Erik’s initial failure also results in some depression, although he’s seemingly better equipped to deal with it as he continues functioning well in public. He has doubts about his own talents as a writer, fearing that he’ll always live in the shadow of his esteemed friend. However, he continues plugging away and eventually lands his own publishing deal while also capturing the attention of a legendary and reclusive writer who is a role model for both boys. Erik is presented as the stable and insightful friend, the tortoise in the race to a meaningful lifetime career, and ultimately his story feels like the heart of the film in spite of his absence from the cover art.
Surprisingly, this little gem comes from Norway, not a very frequent presence on the global film map but with this release an entirely welcome one. The film does an admirable job of portraying Erik and Phillip’s youthful exuberance and contrasting it with the harsh realities they encounter as they progress through the early stages of adulthood. Rather than coming off as depressing, it’s entirely engaging to watch them struggle with the trials of adult life.
The film is structured in such a way that viewers are pulled into an easy familiarity with the characters, most notably through the use of frequent narrator asides including flashbacks and rapid-fire editing that highlight seemingly meaningless tidbits in their lives such as their youthful appreciation of a band or the previously mentioned veteran writer. The film looks very polished, escaping the low-budget foreign film stigma with superb cinematography, camera work, and editing. The actors (Anders Danielsen Lie as Phillip and Espen Klouman-Høiner as Erik), while not the most memorable, are all well-suited for their roles and contribute solid performances. Of course the technical expertise would be all for naught if the plot was lacking, but gladly this is an across-the-board success.
To highlight the film’s solid credentials, it won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay at Norway’s national film awards. It was also an official selection of both the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals. Even Scott Rudin, the reigning US champion of challenging films, is onboard as exec producer. With all this support plus a Snob nod, it’s clear that you can’t go wrong if you give this one a chance.
Reprise is now available on DVD. It includes a healthy assortment of bonus features such as casting sessions and deleted scenes.