The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World ★★★½

Julie (Renate Reinsve) is a smart Norwegian med school student in her late 20s who looks as much like Dakota Johnson as Dakota Johnson ever has. Director Joaquin Trier underscores her allure as we first meet her, poised on a balcony above downtown Oslo in a backless cocktail dress, so strongly that he even racks focus on the city behind her until it’s just a blur. She has the world at her feet, and the rat-a-tat narration can hardly keep up with her roiling sense of youthful possibility. But as anyone who’s ever wasted an hour aimlessly scrolling through Netflix knows all too well, having too many options can keep you from committing to any one of them; the bigger the menu, the harder it is to feel like you ordered the right meal.

Realizing that her passion is for the mind instead of the body, Julie ditches medicine for psychology and dumps her blindsided doctor boyfriend (prognosis negative). A few seconds of film time and a fling with her professor later — his body arousing a greater passion in her than his mind — Julie decides that she’s actually destined to be a photographer instead. New trysts. A different scene. More ways to become the perfect vessel for an older male filmmaker who envies Julie’s capriciousness and sexual availability enough to cast her in a thoroughly adult coming-of-age story about the virtues of committing to something, even if only to oneself. Needless to say, you’ve seen this movie before. It probably starred Greta Gerwig. But writer-director Joachim Trier can live with that; “The Worst Person in the World” is subtitled “Julie (in 12 Chapters),” and we still haven’t left the prologue.

A sharp and entrancing pivot back to the restless films he once made about beautiful young people suffering from the vertigo of time moving through them (“Reprise” and “Oslo, August 31” being the first two parts of the loose thematic trilogy that led us here), Trier’s latest film embraces the idea that originality might be a touch overrated. In fact, Julie’s life could even be seen as a cautionary tale about the perils of waiting to become the unique flowers we’re all promised to blossom into one day, even if it understands that some lessons can only be learned the hard way. “When was life supposed to start?” asks the narrator on Julie’s behalf, her rhetorical question belying the obvious fact that it already has.

~this review continues on IndieWire~

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