Movie Review: ‘Triangle of Sadness’

Director: Ruben Östlund

Cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Burić, Iris Berben, Vicki Berlin, Henrik Dorsin, Woody Harrelson

Plot: Carl, a male model, and Yaya, an influencer, are invited to join the wealthy elite on a luxury cruise. Over the course of the journey the class divides and gender roles are thrown into chaos due to the events of a storm of pirates.

Review: It’s difficult to summarise this dark comedy, as it plays out in three distinct chapters beginning with the most nuanced and turning into complete absurdity. We were lucky enough to go into this one blind, so the turn from a dialogue driven drama to Pythonesque scenes of contagious vomiting was surprising. Coming to the slow realisation that we were watching a farcical comedy about the 1% getting their comeuppance was a journey and a half.

Our main character is Carl (Dickinson), a male model looking to build his career alongside his girlfriend Yaya (Dean), a successful influencer. They come into conflict over dinner in a restaurant, as Carl is frustrated that he’s still expected to pay for the meal even though she makes more money than him. The expectations of their gender roles, what they want from each other and how they envision a future together. This part of the film is quite simple in locations, framing and expression of ideas. Before long we jump ahead to Carl and Yaya enjoying their time on a high class cruise, where they continue to antagonise each other amid furthering their social media careers.

On board the ship they meet a range of other wealthy people, including a Russian oligarch and his family, an older British couple who made a future manufacturing weapons, a lonely tech billionaire and a woman who has suffered a stroke and can only repeat the same German phrase. The focus widens to include the hard-working staff of the ship, who are instructed to fulfil any wish of the guests and are frequently humiliated by the oblivious whims of the disconnected elite. The head of the staff, Paula (Berlin), struggles to keep a balance between the staff, the guests and the drunken Captain Thomas (Harrelson) who won’t emerge from the cabin. It all comes to a head when a storm hits, leading to many of the wealthy suffering sea-sickness, over-flowing toilets and power outages.

Following the ship being capsized by pirates, a handful of survivors wash up on a beach. The dynamic shifts with the arrival of Abigail (de Leon), a cleaner on the cruise who is the only one capable of catching food and starting a fire. Now in a position of power of the 1%rs, Abigail determines who gets the best sleeping spots, larger shares of the food and even begins offering Carl more supplies in exchange for sex. The shift in power drives a wedge between Carl and Yaya, although the latter does still want to to benefit from the special treatment.

Each of these scenarios build upon the initial thesis concerning the power that comes from money and gender roles. As it escalates out of control it becomes increasingly funny, with a seemingly endless sequence of puking and shitting millionaires dragged off their pedestals and humiliated through their own indirect actions. Some parts of the movie run longer than expected, and this isn’t always to the benefit of the pacing, but the performances from the ensemble cast keeps it engaging. When it devolves into an absurd comedy it hits the mark surprisingly often and in a darkly enjoyable way. The line “isn’t that one of ours” just about had me rolling on the floor laughing – a simple joke, but expertly delivered.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN