Triangle of Sadness, 2022.
Written and Directed by Ruben Östlund.
Starring Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly De Leon, Zlatko Burić, Woody Harrelson, Vicki Berlin, Iris Berben.
Celebrity model couple Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean) are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared Instagrammable ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival.
Ruben Östlund won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2017 with his modern-art satire The Square. He followed this up with another win for his latest subversive, satirical venture Triangle of Sadness which was awarded Cannes’ top honour in May and has proved a breakout success on the festival circuit. The film marks his English language debut for the director also behind the successful Force Majeure in 2014.
Triangle of Sadness is a pastiche of the super rich in 2022, poking fun at everyone from arms dealers and Russian billionaires to influencers and models. There is little respite over the course of its 2 hour 20 minutes run time as Östlund goes for the jugular, in not always the most subtle fashion, but making for a hugely entertaining time which largely takes place aboard a yacht.
The core of the film focuses on male model Carl played by rising star Harris Dickinson and his girlfriend Yaya, played by the late Charlbi Dean, who tragically passed away in August. The cast is rounded out by Woody Harrelson in a hugely entertaining turn as the ship’s drunken, unreliable Captain Thomas Smith, and Dolly De Leon as Abigail a member of the ship’s staff. The initial part of the story focuses on Carl and Yaya’s relationship and the a series of hilarious interplays revolving around who picks up the bill for dinner before shifting to the yacht and eventually an island.
To give away specifics would spoil some of the film’s tremendous twists and turns but safe to say the farce and gross out levels are dialled up more and more as the cruise gets further into its journey. We encounter a myriad of detestable characters, each more unlikable than the last. The script can be a bit on the nose at times with some gags dragged out longer than they maybe need to but this is a sharp send up of internet culture and the uber rich, clearly underpinning the different class structures on the yacht and society more widely.
The film’s sound design is one of its triumphs with background noise used to build a sense of discomfort be it the lashing rain, a fly that won’t seem to go away, or a creature somewhere in the background on the island. The use of these sounds creates a disquieting feel as the voyage becomes more absurdist in nature.
Outside of Harrelson’s riotous turn as the captain, making the most of his surprisingly sparse run time, Dickinson once again proves why his star is so on the rise having been a part of See How They Run and Where The Crawdads Sing this year, this role allowing him to flex more muscles, sharing fantastic chemistry with Dean, it is such a shame that the role that may have catapulted her to greater heights is her last as she lights up the screen and has fantastic comic timing.
The tone of each segment of the film plays slightly differently and once we reach the island for the climatic section it has seen comparisons to Lord of the Flies although not entirely losing the sense of sharpness and dry humour that is a constant. Östlund proves here that he can tap into an array of genres managing to prevent the film from shifting too drastically.
Triangle of Sadness is best observed without prior knowledge as this may spoil some of its true surprises. If at times its gross out humour can prove a bit too much, the razor sharp script and timely subject matter keep it a constantly engaging film that rarely feels its runtime. The performances across the board are pitch perfect, blending black humour and moments of darkness while never losing sight of the fact that it is a satire.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★