Sick of Myself

Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is a plain jane Oslo barista who finds herself growing increasingly envious of the attention that her arrogant artist boyfriend Thomas (Eirik Sæther) is receiving, and although one of her first lines in Sick of Myself is "I'm not a narcissist", we know that's a lie, as moments later she begins her campaign to get more attention from Thomas and from the public at large.

Signe soon finds that what works best for her is pretending to be sick – an invented allergy to nuts at a dinner party is an early triumph – so when she chances upon a news story about a little-known Russian medication that can severely disfigure the face as a side effect, she sees this as her ticket to glory. Naturally, she winds up getting more than she bargained for.

Walking a fine line between realism and absurdity, Sick of Myself – a more evocative translation of the original Norwegian title Syk Pike or "Sick Girl" – is an obvious send-up of today's narcissistic society, although writer/director Borgli makes it a point not to pin the blame on social media. Although Twitter is mentioned once or twice and Signe takes a few selfies of her mutilated face, the focus is mostly on traditional media: newspapers, magazines, and television are Signe's chosen outlets for publicizing herself as the pitiful victim of an unknown disease.

I mostly liked Sick of Myself: equally influenced by satires on fame like To Die For and body horror flicks like The Fly, it's a sharp, funny, well-made movie that, somewhat boldly for the Covid era, pulls no punches when it comes to skewering victim culture. (It is significant that it comes from Norway, one of the most progressive and egalitarian countries in the world; one wonders if it would have been labeled misogynist and ableist if it had been made by an American man.)

The film's only real fault – and it's kind of a big one – is that Signe's early attempts at grabbing attention seem forced by Borgli's screenplay: they lack the subtle cunning you'd expect from a Millennial who, having grown up with social media, should already know which tactics work and which don't. And the extreme leap she makes in swallowing pills that will permanently scar her visage is, in terms of dramatic narrative, rather too abrupt. In short, Sick of Myself is missing a proper First Act, in which we get to know and even sympathize with Signe during her "status quo" days, so that we can understand how and why she might change once her boyfriend begins tasting notoriety. Instead she comes right out of the gate as a self-absorbed jerk, and the film is worse for it.