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Triangle of Sadness review: Ruben Östlund's absurd take on class divide is filthy and hits the roof

Triangle of Sadness is where The White Lotus meets Titanic meets Lost.


Triangle of Sadness

Last Updated: 02.58 PM, Mar 03, 2023


Social order is spun on its head in Ruben Östlund's wickedly humorous Palme d'Or winner, exposing the sleazy connection between power and beauty. Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), a famous model couple, are invited to go on a luxurious cruise for the very rich. The ship's captain, Woody Harrelson, is a bit crazy. What at first seemed Instagrammable comes to an abrupt end, leaving the survivors trapped on an island in the middle of nowhere and battling for their lives.


The title of the film, Triangle of Sadness, itself has quite a deeper meaning, which you think has an emotional angle. But the film right at the start explains that the term is actually more about physical appearance. In real life, the region between the eyebrows and the very top of the nose bridge is known as "The Triangle of Sadness." Even when the person's face is resting in a neutral position, the area emphasises unpleasant facial expressions like grief or rage and is prone to developing wrinkles with age. Deep, right? People from any strata of society often have that facial expression at any point in the day, and sometimes it goes out of control.

Triangle of Sadness is one of these stories that looks at the most popular theme in movies right now: the difference between classes. After people went gaga over The White Lotus for the past couple of years, any kind of movie or show that comes close to it tries very hard to hit the benchmark it created. The 147-minute film is divided into three parts, where the basic premise is about this young couple named Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (late Charlbi Dean). The beginning itself sets the tone of equality, first and foremost starting with gender. It's well-established that Carl is a struggling model, while Yaya sets the ramp on fire. This leads to the former getting into a heated discussion with her about how she can also pay for a restaurant bill and how it's something that should happen organically. The whole sequence from the restaurant to their hotel room pierces through the bones because it's pretty relevant and sets the record straight on how an equal couple should be.


By the time we reach the second part of the film, we touch down on a luxury cruise where Yaya and Carl get a room for free as she is an influencer. Her camera roll is filled with her tanned photos in a bikini, and in the real world, the insecurities pent up between them as the sun touches overhead and goes down. Just like how a fly keeps on roaming around them, causing a disturbance while watching, it metaphorically shows how the couple is also a hindrance to each other.

In no time, we see shifts in gears as we explore other guests on the cruise. The real black comedy makes its way into the picture with several uncomfortable scenes that make you cover your eyes in several instances. Mike White's The White Lotus then starts meeting James Cameron's Titanic as the film progresses, but in the filthiest way. As we start meeting new guests, we realise that elitism is at its peak, making situations more uncomfortable to watch. The "tch tch" comes constantly in many sequences, especially when the whole crew is expected to jump off the ship into the ocean at the "command" of a Russian guest.

This happens in the guise of the Triangle of Sadness taking a Titanic turn, where the iceberg is the food being served and the ship is amidst the bad storm. The second part of the film is the most difficult one, where the guests cannot stop eating the exotic food being served along with the champagne being flown. The wrecking of everything takes much time to process as we are literally being thrown into a puddle of vomit. Ugh, the wait is longer to get over the whole sequence, and Östlund's wickedness is shown to give the audience an unusual reality check. But before the Titanic angle, he gives a glimpse into the dirty side of The Menu which took a classier twist while sinking further.

In the third and final part of the film, Titanic meets Lost, where the film really tests your patience. The constant class divide comes into the picture, this time against the backdrop of survival skills. The movie doesn't feel bad about how the rich have all the advantages and depend on the people below them. But in no time, they will hog the limelight and take credit for everything. The brilliant Dolly de Leon, who plays Abigail, transitions from being the cruise ship's toilet manager to being the leader on a marooned island where the wealthy are just mere survivors.

The film longs for a right conclusion, but you don't get it entirely as Östlund intends. Giving an open ending to the film after testing your patience for nearly an hour works in the film's favour but also against it. The sharpness is lacking, and you might have been keen to seek the movie forward had it been in your control.

Coming to performances, everyone, including Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Burić, Iris Berben, Vicki Berlin, Henrik Dorsin, Jean-Christophe Folly, Amanda Walker, Oliver Ford Davies, Sunnyi Melles, Woody Harrelson, hit the right note with the character division given to them. In two and a half-hour film, they give performances that are well-stretched and make sense for a mini-series. But it would definitely have been stiff competition for Mike White's show, which has undivided global attention.

Triangle of Sadness is not a comfort watch, and not everyone will sign up for it. But if you have, beware of getting through the vomit and sh*t that spreads all over the screen, making even the sewage system on the cruise go for a toss.


Triangle of Sadness gets on point with the gender and class divisions in the three-act film. However, it lacks the edge and will lead you to become more impatient as the film progresses. Three nominations for the 95th Academy Awards have been given to the movie: best picture, best director, and best original screenplay. But not all Oscar films are worth filling your cup, and not everyone's choice of films.

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