The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World ★★★★½

2021 Ranked
MoMA Contenders 2021 #4

Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World is a deeply complex and empathetic rom com that tells the story of Julie, a woman on the verge of 30 trying to navigate relationships and work on the search for purpose and worth.

Trier is on a mission to explore the messiness of peoples’ actions and choices. The characters here - particularly Julie - are full of contrasts. Trier and co-screenwriter Eskil Vogt create circumstance after circumstance of the characters acting selfish, and yet they give so much empathy to them that the ethics and judgements of their decisions are set to the side. Is Julie really the worst? Are her actions justified in the face of their consequences? Ending relationships, jumping careers, refusing motherhood… It’s a beautiful and thought-provoking film.

Trier is also pushing the boundaries of dramatic storytelling here, often taking our characters on tangential journeys and seeing how far we can deviate before returning home. The film is broken down into 12 chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue, and the literary structure allows for Trier to play with audience expectations and vignette storytelling within a larger narrative frame.

There are some incredible sequences in here, particularly “Cheating” and “Julie’s Narcissistic Circus.” And the frozen day of “Bad Timing” might be my favorite scene of the year. Beautiful magical realism at play.

Wonderful cast. Best debut performance this year from Renate Reinsve who plays Julie with amazing complexity and power. Anders Danielsen Lie also gives a fantastic performance as Aksel, completely grounded and full of depth.

The film is shot on 35mm. Trier spoke afterwards about why he prefers 35mm over digital. He said that the color spectrum of film captures drama better than digital, but he also said - which I’ve never heard before - that he prefers 35mm due to its effect on the production process. He doesn’t want to have a dozen people crowded around a digital monitor adjusting the shots. He just wants the DP looking through a lens and creating the shot, a process built entirely on trust. A beautiful reason.

Big fan of this, and I think others will be too. I expect big momentum for this over the next few months.

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