TIFF 2016: The Oath Review

Special Presentations 

Film criticism is always a work in progress, based on the films seen previously. Case in point, The Oath is a taut, psychological Icelandic thriller that makes use of the positive aspects of Graduation and The Unknown Woman without falling into their traps or negative aspects.

Baltasar Kormákur directs and stars as Finnur, a successful surgeon who’s estranged from his oldest daughter, Anna. Anna is dating Óttar (Gísli Örn Garðarsson) and we can safely say that there’s a great deal of tension, especially since Anna’s boyfriend appears to be abusive and involved in drug running for some seriously twisted individuals. 

Just like with Graduation, the film asks whether we should side with what the daughter wishes, or if indeed, daddy knows best. In The Oath, Anna is an adult and presumed to be able to make her own decisions. The film never quite addresses this issue, however, as we are invested in the father’s experience. However, the ending leaves it quite clear how Anna will deal with her father’s running interference in the future – an aspect Graduation didn’t seem to touch on.


As in The Unknown Woman, the good doctor is conducting, inexpertly, an investigation into some sketchy business. Unlike The Unknown Woman, the investigation is fast-paced and the results are found quickly. This film also shows the degree to which one’s responsibilities as a doctor can get in the way of personal matters or vice versa. I appreciated that the film doesn’t waste time showing characters getting from place to place – which makes many films feel padded. The doctor gets in the car or on his bike, and we are where he wants to go within seconds. The speed of the film is exhilarating, and is stylistically evocative of the way in which the doctor’s decisions are ultimately final: once you take certain actions – especially as a doctor – there’s no going back.


Sunday Sept. 11, 9:30pm @ Scotiabank 3

Thursday Sept 15, 9:45am @ Bloor Hot Docs


Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.

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