The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World ★★★

Surely an issue of overly heightened expectations – I was hoping for Toni Erdmann-like bursts of flight into sublime, reckless humanism and all I got were the familiar beats of millennial malaise. “Though he was devastated, he had to respect the way she took control of her life.” The film reaches its highpoint early on, Julie’s gorgeous long night’s journey into morning spent not-cheating with Eivind, and little that follows feels so authentically messy or beguiling. There’s something fascinating here about the resistance to having become one thing or another (I frequently thought of Zadie Smith’s novels [“While she was becoming, everyone grew up and became”], though the film mostly suffered from the mental comparison); that maybe feeling stuck doesn’t have to be the same thing as being stunted. “She was thinking about how, at the age of thirty, she’d just compared herself to Bambi.” Trier seems to relish most the moments in Julie’s life that resist tidy narrativization, and I wonder what a version of the film that truly let her be like this – outside endpoints and goalposts and this-then-that – might have looked like. Maybe the sincerest truth she arrives at is the fact that sometimes we do, indeed, have to become secondary characters in our own lives; the dying body of a person we love tends, after all, to take center stage from our own ultimately small problems. A masked-up coda acts like some sort of wisened grace note, though it mostly felt like settling.

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