The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World ★★★★

Was she really? Obviously, director Joachim Trier and his co-writer Eskil Vogt overstates the word “worst” to describe their female protagonist and her aimless outlook on life and relationships. As beautifully and thoughtfully portrayed by Renate Reinsve, Julie represents a period in one’s life: the period between young adulthood and middle-aged where life’s choices feel aimless regardless of how much time or effort you put in to that choice. Julie conveys the fear of existential stagnation that most young adults face especially at this time of pandemic and globalization. It’s deeply pressuring, scary, and anxiety-inducing.

The Worst Person in the World captures all those scary feelings and emotions authentically and at times thought-provokingly. I’ve always admired Trier’s fascination with existence and grief early on in his films, and with this, he achieves a very special atmosphere: a story so specific but at the same time, incredibly universal in way of things. The writing is so contemporary but never feels smug about its freshness. It’s light but substantial. It’s delicate but not distancing.

Now comes my slight complaint. I just wish Trier and co-writer Vogt had a more satisfying finish to Julie’s story rather than a neat, easy moral-serving, soapy ending. I wished Julie had more to do in the second half of the film, and not just play as a stand-in to her male counterparts which is her former lover Aksel and current boyfriend Eivind. The last part of the film concerned too much of Aksel’s debilitating sickness and Eivind’s happiness that by the end… we’re left with Julie by herself, alone and giving the same impression of uncertainty and aimlessness. This complaint is a minor thing but holistically, I found the film to be really effective and beautiful in getting its message across.

Renate Reinsve gives a beautifully understated and detailed work. It’s not expansive in technical terms meaning, she doesn’t shout or beat anybody, or lose her mind, or do brutal extreme things… but its her fearlessness to commit to the truest, candid emotions of love and relationships. It’s emotionally deep and expansive yet still authentic to embody those complicated human behaviors. Supporting her were actors Anders Danielsen Lie (very strong!) and Herbert Nordrum who are both affectionate, and sensitive in their performances—it’s hard not to get swept away by them.

Overall, The Worst Person in the World is a wondrous work run by total empathy and understanding of the real mess of life. The film comforts us and says that we can be absolutely the worst versions of ourselves in different periods of our life and be confused and weird—and that’s completely valid. And that we all deserve unconditional love and understanding regardless.

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