The Columnist Review
Cyber-bullying Never Hit This Hard
By Liselotte Vanophem
Even though 2020 was a year in which nothing was certain, there were still some aspects you can count on. One of them was the Arrow Video FrightFest and their great movies such as “The Columnist” (original title: “De kuthoer”). In case you’ve missed this dark and edgy moving, no worries. Thanks to Vertigo Releasing, you will be able to watch “The Columnist” from your sofa from the 12th of March.
In his debut movie, director Ivo van Aart combines the toxic environment of social media, darkness and a stunning female lead in a great way. Because of that, “The Columnist” becomes an extremely enjoyable, mysterious, and contemporary film.
Meet Femke Boot (Katja Herbers), a columnist for the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant and soon-to-be author of her first book. She’s not afraid of sharing her opinions, no matter how many negative reactions she gets. It seems that the online readers aren’t very fond of her and her articles, but that doesn’t stop Femke from appearing in newspapers and on television. After participating in a talk show in which she asks why people can’t be civilized even when they have different opinions, she gets even more death threats and nasty comments.
Despite having the support of daughter Anna (Claire Porro) and boyfriend Steven (Bram van der Kelen), she struggles with writer’s block. Being pressured by her editor and trying to handle the awful comments, Femke’s emotional level is reaching its peak. When her neighbour declares that she’s “a hot woman with a stupid opinion”, something snaps, and Femke gets revenge in the most bloody and brilliant way…
“The Columnist” is van Aart’s first full-length feature film and it must have been a daunting challenge to make a unique movie. Well, that’s exactly what he did. As a Dutch-speaking person myself, it’s great to see a Dutch thrilling, dark, and extremely well-performed film. This movie has an international allure because it steps away from the usual topics, the expected storyline, and the familiar actors.
First of all, it’s a well-written story. It’s very refreshing to see that it’s not a bloodthirsty man who’s going on a killing spree. No, the fact that this movie is about a strong woman taking the matter into her own hands is a great touch. Even more so when the lead can be any of us as Femke could be your best friend, neighbour or just family member. She’s just like one of us. She is a woman with a steady job, a loving family, and who fights for what she believes in. Just as in real-life, appearance can be deceiving.
The movie feels even more contemporary because of how technology and social media are being used in the movie. We all have social media, on which we spend way too much time, and we know how toxic the online environment can be. Still, we can’t resist checking out the comments underneath our posts every second and our social media presence means a lot to us.
Secondly, there’s the stunningly strong performance by Herbers (“Westworld”, “Weg van jou”) in the lead role. Not many actresses can pull off such a wide smile while also showing the inside pain of her character. During the first part of the movie, Herbers shows us beautifully the loving, dedicated, and motherly side of Femke. Still, when her character goes to the dark and murderous side, her performance becomes even more captivated, twisted (but in a good way), and entertaining. Whether it’s the vulnerability of Femke, her sense of humour and the madness in her life, Herbers shows it all perfectly.
Alongside her, we see two other great actors. One is the young Porro, for whom “The Columnist” is her film debut. Porro gives a wonderful and emotional performance as the headstrong, rebellious, but also caring Anna. We also see Van der Kelen (“The Life of Esteban”, “Onno de Onwetende”) as Steven Dood (yep, Steven Death), Femke’s new lover. He gives a nuanced and layered performance as he shows both sides of his character-the darker one and the more emotional.
Ok, yes, at certain moments, it becomes clear that this is a debut film. Some events just follow each other up at a record speed with no real build-up, due to which they feel a little bit forced. However, the great acting, very modern story and the nuances in both the humour and cinematography make sure that you will love this movie.
“The Columnist” is available via digital platforms from the 12th of March.
Originally published at https://www.ocmoviereviews.com on March 11, 2021.