By MX Reigner, University of Sussex
Reviewed as part of CINECITY The Brighton Film Festival – Duke of York’s 14 Nov 22.
In the Year I Watched Jordan Peele’s Nope, This Film is My Best of 2022.
Hollywood might have called it “Seeker”. In Britain, the title might have been “The Upstager”. But this dark comedy drama by Norwegian writer-director Kristoffer Borgli is actually called “Syk Pike”, or “Sick of Myself” in English. And it’s brilliant. Twisted and brilliant.
We step into the mischievous relationship between Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp) and her suddenly-achieving boyfriend Thomas (Eirik Sæther), witnessing their plight as they constantly one-up one another in various social situations. Yet what seems deserved for him feels quite stolen for her. We hear her speak of narcissism early in the film, a trait she quickly distances herself from in the moment, and none too tactfully. From this point onwards, we are in on the joke, watching her manipulate others around her to garner attention whenever she feels unseen. Signe steeps low to feed this addiction, yet never in a film with this much gory imagery have I heard so much laughter in the theatre so often.
When comparing this to another dark Norwegian drama (which also follows the journey of a girl falling down a sinister path), the supernatural horror film Thelma (2017), it is tempting to condense out a particular filmic style where things are just… there, with no cadence or crescendo, unnecessary setup or flamboyancy in plot. We the audience are given a front-row seat to the complete story of each situation and asked to form our own conclusions; it just so happens that we see too much of the truth to be pulled in by the great act ourselves. Sick of Myself offers a masterclass in show-don’t-tell, while demonstrating tactful use of the unreliable narrator. Here, we are often shown Signe’s fleeting fantasies, ones that paint her in an impossibly perfect light; pullouts that are immediately recognizable for the novelty of characters simply being nice to Signe, giving her precisely what she wants unprompted and with generosity.
Kristine Kujath Thorp is completely believable as Signe, as were the rest of the cast in their respective roles. The dialogue in particular is as honourably chaotic as real life, which lends the film a level of naturalistic realism.
Sick of Myself treats us to many beautiful shots without showing off, where the cinematography steps back to let the action speak while still tailing closely behind. Scenes of trauma, intimacy and even gore are navigated with tact but unashamedly so, and the editing delivers some fresh visual poetry that makes no stranger of comedic timing. The FX makeup used was so well done as to appear invisible, something that often isn’t true for other productions with budgets in the hundreds of millions; this is exactly the goal for FX makeup, and was achieved in every frame of this film. Lastly, there were no obvious
plot holes and the story is far from implausible, indeed the film delivers quite the watertight spiral down the path of self-destruction in the name of sympathy.
I urge you, sit down to follow the descent of this frightfully curious character. You can’t be disappointed.