The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World ★★★

AFI Fest 2021: Movie #4

“You’ll regret this.”
“I’m sure I will.”

What starts off as a fascinating, humorously-observed character portrait becomes a rather standard relationship drama. The Worst Person in the World is told in, as its opening title card promises, a prologue, twelve chapters, and an epilogue; the structure works well in pacing the long timeline of the film’s narrative, but it also makes it all too clear where it gets lost. I felt that this became less about our protagonist in the later chapters, and that shift in focus made me question what the point was all along. Characters that are hard to pin down can be greatly compelling, but that trait is distinct from simply inconsistent writing. I didn’t believe the character arc we saw here, if it was a true arc at all. The protagonist makes so many strong, life-altering decisions for better and for worse that it’s disappointing to conclude with such passivity.

Its final chapters are where it loses me, but for a good while, The Worst Person in the World is a fantastic watch. An excellent lead performance tied to Trier’s consistently great direction gives the work a sense of confidence that’s hard to find elsewhere. The humor is smart and unexpected, and it’s often funniest in times of conflict. For a time, I really understood this character and the journey she was on to find someone, something, anything that she could truly call her own. I just wish we had gotten to know her better instead of taking such a large step back.

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