Love it or hate it, the current trend towards narratives involving teenagers engaged in mostly deplorable behavior is ubiquitous. That’s not to say Danish filmmaker Kristian Håskjold’s Young is Euphoria in Copenhagen exactly, but it’s hard to avoid the comparisons when the latter dominates the Twitterverse to such a degree.
We open with Pernille (Frieda Joanna Krøgholt) pilfering bottles of alcohol from a liquor store in preparation for an upcoming rager. Then, back at home, as she and her friends Tanne (Mathilde Fock) and Zarif (Stran Ezgi Benli) get dolled up, they let loose a rumor they heard indicating Pernille recently had an abortion. The source of the gossip is allegedly a girl in their social circle named Silke (Mathilde Schjelde).
“…Pernille, Tanne, and Zarif engage in a horrendous act of retribution…”
Interestingly, screenwriter Malthe Jagd Miehe-Renard embraces a certain ambiguity regarding the truth. Later, Silke is spotted at the party, and Pernille, Tanne, and Zarif engage in a horrendous act of retribution against her. A truly cringe-worthy sequence of abuse, a scene that takes bullying to Von Trier levels of maliciousness. It might sound mean-spirited, but the filmmaker carefully parses out the tension, keeping the attention of the viewers.
The fact that Håskjold can build such tension is an indicator of his competency as a filmmaker because looking away simply isn’t an option. As such, Young keeps us engaged throughout with convincing performances, especially from Krøgholt. The director also capably capitalizes on our collective sense of dread. In a long-format medium, it would have been beneficial to unpack more of the motivations behind Pernille’s malevolence in an effort to add nuance to the character.
This dread serves as the crux of the film, and while it may come off as Håskjold’ attempting to up the ante when it comes to sequences of teenage viciousness, it’s also key to the film’s relative success. Young is ultimately a worthy addition to the Danish cinematic tradition of putting the audience through the ringer — not unlike the work from Håskjold’s fellow Danes Lars Von Trier and Nicholas Winding Refn.
"…capitalizes on our collective sense of dread."