At once a damning, darkly comedic look at the lengths someone will go to get attention while in a toxic relationship, Kristoffer Borgli’s Sick of Myself is also a subtle dig at Influencers and their desperate need for acceptance that only a “like” can supply.
Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is the timid manager of a local café, while her self-involved boyfriend Thomas (Eirik Saether) is an artist who makes sculptures out of stolen furniture. When he quickly becomes the darling of the local art scene, the attention he receives, combined with his poor treatment of Signe, causes her to take extreme measures to one-up him.
Going online, Signe discovers a Russian anti-anxiety drug that has been found to cause extreme skin deformities in those that take it. She gains access to the drug and begins to take it, hoping that the illness that results will get her the attention she craves. And that it does.
At first, the pills cause her to get physically tired and ill, but soon enough, rashes form, and swiftly thereafter, her face is embedded with deep purple creases and malformations. This thrills Signe, who quickly becomes the center of attention for most. She is very aware of those in her life who have not visited her or sent messages, and she quickly writes them off. Her focus is one-upping her awful boyfriend, whose career continues to skyrocket, while she gains the sympathy of everyone around her.
And by everyone, that includes the world. Because after she convinces a journalist friend to write about her “mysterious disease,” she becomes an overnight sensation, even landing a modeling contract. The problem is that the side effects from the medication haven’t slowed down, and she becomes sicker and more grotesque as the movie continues.
While it seems like a sort-of Lynchian body-horror film, this is more in line with what Daniel Waters (Heathers) could do with social media culture. While writer/director Borgli’s focus isn’t necessarily on social media and more on the need to get attention from someone she thinks she loves, the tendrils of Signe’s story playfully stroke a number of current societal issues. While Munchausen Syndrome seems to be the primary focus here, you can see the glee in Signe’s eyes when she gets the cover story of a popular magazine, her social media blows up, and she can veer attention to herself from literally everyone around her. It’s a damning look at (primarily) Gen Z/Millennial culture, where to exist means you have to be seen – and by any means necessary.
Thorp’s portrayal of Signe is a fascinating watch. Both disturbing and hilarious, her desperate need for attention is gruesome in so many ways. And while we really find her behavior deplorable, it’s also weirdly understandable. In a world where everyone is primed to become a “brand,” the lengths Signe goes to aren’t implausible.
Saether as her boyfriend, is equally relatable because we know this person. He is the artist whose art is terrible and pretentious but whose fame clouds their vision so they can only see the mirror in front of themselves. He is cruel to Signe, only occasionally showing her any sort of empathy, which is usually interrupted by his own objectives.
Two intriguing scenes illustrate this, both at dinner tables. The first is when Signe tries desperately to relate to the people in the art scene that are lauding her boyfriend, but she fails miserably. To counter this, she fakes a food allergy that pulls all the attention off of Thomas and onto her. It’s sick and embarrassing, but she successfully gains sympathy for herself.
In the other scene, Signe and Thomas are with another couple who watch as Signe and Thomas vie to continuously bring the conversation back to themselves. So much so that their friends finally call them out on it and leave.
While the subtitles might scare casual movie-goers away, Sick of Myself is a freshly captivating crowd-pleaser that will provoke discussion and generate morbid interest in Signe’s self-centered plotting. It’s wittily written and goes a lot deeper than you might expect. Add to that the incredible performance by Thorp, with word-of-mouth, this could be the indie sleeper hit of the Spring.