A dramedy set in Oslo, Norway, Staying Alive explores modern divorce and the struggle to maintain a certain sense of normalcy once life, as we knew it, gets turned upside down. Despite having premiered in Norway at the beginning of the year, Staying Alive enjoyed its international premiere at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival last November.
Marianne and Håkon have been together for fifteen years and their rather ‘cozy’ life has been filled with happy moments with their two children Emma and Jens but also with problems and trivialities of everyday life. That is, until Marianne unexpectedly finds out that Håkon has been having an affair with Frida, his young colleague who makes waffles at work every Friday. With her eccentric sagacity and wacky hilarity, her best friend Kristin supports Marianne as she enters a new life in which she discovers that coziness is overrated, embracing spontaneity and having fun.
Elegantly oscillating between drama and comedy, Staying Alive takes the audience on a profoundly emotional voyage through the distress and readjustments brought on by divorce. Thanks to the perspicuous talent of Norwegian newcomer Charlotte Blom who deftly balances the comic relief with more dramatic moments, we experience Marianne’s pain and journey of self-discovery. But, she is helped in that endeavor by an outstanding Agnes Kittelsen who steals the screen, delivering a poignant performance that embodies her vulnerability, fortitude and sympathy and captures through Marianne’s sensitivity, tears, laughter and nervous breakdowns the hearts of the audience who unreservedly root for her. In a very raw manner, she makes us part of her character’s personal growth and inner exploration.
In that sense, Staying Alive is also a film by women for women and makes for a timely and admirable feminist message, which is another positive feature to cherish in this magnificent debut. The techs and performances by the rest of the cast are all equally excellent, and we cannot help but give a nod to the extremely well-chosen songs that include “Hold Me Now” by Johnny Logan (who makes a charming cameo appearance), the Bee Gees’ eponymous song “Staying Alive” that could obviously not be missing from the soundtrack and Marvin Gaye’s “Heard it Trough the Grapevine”. Along with the film’s small episodes and little things that are actually its spice, these songs are what truly makes Staying Alive a feel-good movie.
Charlotte Blom’s first feature film is the perfect debut of a promising career and a solid proof of the attention Norwegian cinema has been duly getting on the festival circuit lately. Staying Alive is a vibrant, realistic yet a touching, tender and bittersweet comedy about family, grief, changes, letting go and ultimately, as its title justly suggests, staying alive…