You’ve probably met someone like Signe, the antihero at the center of Sick of Myself. You can tell she’s lying because her mouth is moving. Every tale is a little bit taller coming from Signe. She is the kind of person who fakes a nut allergy at an intimate dinner party, putting out the staff and then putting herself in an awkward position when she eats some food containing nuts off her boyfriend’s plate. She manages to wriggle her way out of that one, naturally. Being a serial liar means living quickly on one’s feet.
Kristine Kujath Thorp’s portrayal of Signe is as exacting as it is unsympathetic in Norwegian writer/director Kristoffer Borgli’s film (in theaters now). She is not miserable, but there’s an off-putting air around her. The parts don’t cohere to an appealing whole. Her boyfriend Thomas (Eirik Sæther) is an artist who’s found some success repurposing furniture he makes no secret about having stolen. Meanwhile, she’s a barista whose biggest professional moment arrives when she helps a woman who bursts into the cafe with puncture wounds on her neck after a dog attack. (Naturally, as Signe brags about this later, we watch the story distort in one of several effective fantasy sequences.) Signe wants more for herself, but she isn’t particularly motivated. She doesn’t care if the world is a better place, just as long as her world is a better place. Attention, in all of its abstraction and with no regard for its ultimate implications, remains her goal.
So when she reads a news story about a Russian drug called Lidexol that’s causing disfiguring skin conditions on people’s faces, she has her dealer friend order her a bunch and starts taking massive doses. Soon, Signe has gotten what she was not careful about wishing for.
Borgli clearly has a lot to say about the world we’re living in—the performance art of everyday living, the way that tragedy demands attention, the silliness of the art world, the rat race of extracting a sense of worth in spaces where everyone is judging everyone—but there’s nothing heavy-handed about the social commentary. Sick of Myself is a comedy of manners, but it stays focused on the functioning of its character against the backdrop of those manners. You can’t exactly fault Signe’s logic. Social media makes people’s mundanity marketable, so if you can manage to live extraordinarily, you give yourself an inherent leg up. The self-Munchausen-ing Signe puts herself through is just an absurd extension of the kind of truth-stretching and shock-jocking that people feel compelled to engage in to prove that they matter.
Many have observed a spiritual connection between the similarly character-focused social commentary of Joachim Trier’s 2021 movie The Worst Person in the World. The apt Daily Beast headline for the publication’s interview with Borgli reads: “New Comedy ‘Sick of Myself’ Features the Actual Worst Person in the World.” It’s a good way to put it, though Sick of Myself is more biting and ultimately less forgiving than that charming movie. This is body horror-comedy, a cranky fantasy in which a young millennial/elder Gen Zer makes it all work out for herself by fucking up her face. Signe is smart enough to get herself in front of the public (via a journalist friend), though she rages when an active shooter bumps her story down a few spots soon after it’s published. No matter, Signe signs with a modeling agent and eventually gets a gig for a brand called Regardless that makes inclusive clothing and bedding (“Regardless means it fits me. Regardless.”). One of Signe’s friends scoffs as she wonders aloud how bedding can be inclusive.
Is Signe in fact the worst person in the world? Or does she just do shitty things? Borgli extends an open invitation for us to judge for ourselves, which harmonizes well with Signe’s pleas to be looked at. Sick of Myself is not much interested in any kind of diagnosis while reveling in her symptoms. Is she just jealous of her boyfriend? What role does her father’s absence in her life play in her desperation? Borgli refuses firm answers. His light hand may flatter his viewers’ intellect, but it ultimately bespeaks a fundamental disdain for Signe—she signs up to be punished and Borgli gladly takes her up on it.
What’s important is that Signe asked for her fate, not what drove her to it. As such, this wildly entertaining movie’s commentary is skin-deep, which is probably part of the point. Sick of Myself is the kind of satire that needs to only move the dial a few positions given the inherently ridiculous nature of the world we live in.