Thea (Paprika Steen) can only seem to find acceptance and respect on the stage. Off it, her life is unraveling. She’s a recovering alcoholic out of rehab, her husband left with the two boys, and she has no friends; except for the lonely drunk at the corner tavern. Buying gifts for others, even those she hardly knows, appears to be the sole way she knows how to build relationships.
Director Martin Pieter Zandvliet’s Applause ratchets up sadness and inner angst in this up-close slice of lonely desperation.
This is a character driven film, sans plot—and what a lead in Paprika Steen who shreds the screen with unforgiving commitment. An outstanding performance, and alone reason enough to see the film.
Applause is hard-boiled and the better for it. Don’t expect neat resolutions, or glorious moments of atonement. Instead it’s much more human and believable. Smiles are superficial and mask inner turmoil.
The pace, unlike so many of today’s Hollywood blockbusters, is patient. It’s something I enjoy a lot in this type of film. I don’t need to be hit over the head with an anvil or assaulted with a rapid-cut music video to know how to feel. Instead, Paprika Steen’s facial expressions, confused body language and awkward social interactions say it all. She wants her life back, the way it was, but moats have formed between those once closest to her. Can trust ever be restored?