Sick of Myself review – outrageous satire will make you laugh with disgust
Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli spins a fearless rom-com about a woman who chooses to engineer her own self-destruction
In Kristoffer Borgli’s Sick of Myself, everyone’s a bad person. Twenty-something year old Signe (a splendid Kristine Kujath Thorp, whom we know from Ninjababy) dreams of unconditional admiration, sympathy, and fame. Tired of living in the shadow of her self-involved boyfriend Thomas (relative newcomer Eirik Sæther), she is now dead set on out-performing him just as his artistic career seems to take off.
He may steal chairs for his art installations, and they might con their way into smuggling out the top-shelf bottle of wine in a fancy Oslo restaurant, but Signe is anything but careful with what she wishes for. Faking a nut allergy, or walking home with her bloodied clothes after a bleeding woman clings to her for help, our unlikeable protagonist seizes every opportunity to be the centre of attention. The word “narcissist” gets thrown around in conversation early on, essentially giving away the film’s verdict towards its characters.
But Borgli doesn’t want to make it simple for the audience. Quite the opposite, he – as writer-director and editor – and cinematographer Benjamin Loeb (After Yang, Mandy) hold nothing back as they reveal Signe’s descent down the body-horror rabbit hole. Popping some dodgy Russian pills, she makes herself ill with an unknown disease. Through their various stages of deformity, her face and body not only get her what she wants – pathological amounts of attention – but they also betray her. Thankfully, there are plenty of content warnings to preempt how horrendous the self-harm can get, but the most troubling thing about Sick of Myself is that it will make you laugh with disgust. Think Ruben Östlund, but carnal and grotesque.
The film is both brutally funny and funnily brutal, for what can be seen as distasteful is also just the right pang in the thick skin of white middle class privilege. The Oslo cultural scene was also satirised in a more measured way by Joachim Trier in The Worst Person in the World, a suitable double-bill companion to Sick of Myself. Not only do the two films share producer's input and appearances by star/doctor Anders Danielsen Lie, but both their main characters are equally drifting, young millennial women. Being released after the enormous success of its toned-down Norwegian predecessor, Sick of Myself is not such an easy pill to swallow. The comparisons will haunt this fresh and ballsy new film, and will emphasise its self-contained world.
But what makes it all very watchable is the clever and often biting dialogue, paired with just the right amount of visual intervention – slow zooms and muted sound mixing to stylise a provocatively banal scene – turning Sick of Myself into a smart, but scary ordeal. Abandon all hope for realism here (is it really possible for two narcissists to be in a relationship?), and just revel in its fiction: outrageous, often unsightly, but always fearless.
Sick of Myself is released in UK cinemas on 21 April.Where to watch