The Columnist (3 stars)

The Columnist

Ivo van Aart's black comedy sees a journalist take bloody revenge on social media trolls

'It's just the internet, it's not real,' a policeman patronisingly informs Femke Boot when she reports the harassment she's been experiencing online. Starring Katja Herbers (TV's Westworld) as the columnist in question, this Dutch film from director Ivo van Aart takes a look at social media trolls and how to handle them, resulting in a blithely bad taste, moderately grisly comedy, which certainly has some creative suggestions.

A popular Volkskrant lifestyle columnist, who is also the single parent of teenager Anna (Claire Porro), Femke has signed with a publisher and is labouring futilely on her first novel. We watch her getting bullied off Twitter by people posting abuse and death threats, but even after quitting she can't help but sneak peeks at the comments which reference her. Realising her neighbour, Arjen (Rein Hofman), is one of those participating in her persecution, Femke acts impulsively and pushes him off his roof when the opportunity presents itself. Unperturbed and a little exhilarated by her actions, it unleashes in her a bloodlust, something Femke needs to conceal from her new boyfriend, the ostensibly sinister but actually rather lovely horror author Steven (Bram van der Kelen).

It's a plum role for Herbers and she's very good at capturing Femke's obsessive need to monitor the hate, and the way the comments nag at and rankle her, as irritation turns to unease and then anger. There's an interesting freedom of speech angle, which sees Anna raging against the headmaster of her school (Harry van Rijthoven), who has booted her off the newspaper, but the film doesn't marry the two storylines up as well as you might expect.

The blandly light and clean visuals give the film an almost TV feel at times and, if the plotting is unashamedly preposterous, the whole thing is not quite wild enough to be obscene amounts of fun. Getting off to a speedy start and rattling through Femke's kills, it's still an enjoyable-enough look at getting mad as hell and deciding not to take it anymore, a pitch-black wish-fulfilment fantasy that reminds us that words can really bloody hurt.

Available to watch on demand from Fri 12 Mar.

The Columnist

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • Netherlands
  • 1h 26min
  • Directed by: Ivo van Aart
  • Written by: Daan Windhorst
  • Cast: Genio de Groot, Katja Herbers, Rein Hofman, Bram van der Kelen, Achraf Koutet, Claire Porro, Harry van Rijthoven, Seno Sever
  • UK release: 12 March 2021

Columnist and author Femke (Katja Herbers) has had enough of being inundated with death threats and hate online. It's time to take revenge.