Directed: Joachim Trier
Cast: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olav Brenner, Herbert Nordrum, Maria Grazia Di Meo
Released: March 25, 2022 (UK)
In the bid to try and control every aspect of our everyday lives, whether it be the lofty ambitions associated with our respective jobs or the dizzying heights we aim to reach for in a lengthy romance. You can bet large sums on our minds being littered with debilitating uncertainty and indecision. Is this the right launchpad for me to achieve greater things? Have I missed my last shot at true happiness? How has this chance meeting with a mere albeit handsome stranger prompted such a deep existential crisis?
Crucial moments that only as the years tick by and time becomes more precious do you realise how finite they are in the significant impact they indeed have on the course of a life—channelling this belief through a masterfully constructed twelve-chapter structure and a layered breakout performance from Best Actress BAFTA nominee Renate Reinsve.
Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World possesses a bracing honesty and an authentic air. Particularly in a time where the curation of ‘snapshots’ through digital means encourages us to dodge confronting the great dilemmas that push our emotional buttons almost daily.
Hesitant in hitting the latest milestone of turning thirty in Oslo. Julie (Reinsve) is wrangling with the societal expectations wrongfully applied to women and her own restlessness in nailing down the ideal career path. The sudden gear shifts, the fleeting flings and dramatic changes in appearance. All attempts to reignite the spark that supposedly lurked within in her youth. Frightfully messy? Yes. All too relatable? Even more so. In her words. She’s playing a supporting role in her own life.
Injecting vibrant bursts of colour into her seemingly beige bookstore existence is the success of comic-book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), who seems to be the solid foundation Julie has been waiting for. However, once probed by the prospect of motherhood and confronted by the classically awkward ‘partner’s friends, I have nothing in common with’ scenario. The strain is increasingly evident, culminating in an impromptu gate-crash of a wedding by Julie where she locks eyes with the immensely likeable Elvind (Herbert Nordrum). Both engage in a transfixing, inquisitive ‘first dance’ of their own, playfully tiptoeing around what constitutes as cheating with the immediate impact on each other, having significant ramifications further down the line.
Director Trier revels in the subversion of the well-worn trappings of its genre that so often resigns itself to wearing rose-tinted glasses through its chosen backdrops to achieve its desired sense of euphoria. Exchanging the pristine and untarnished for the poignant and downright messy, it actively seeks truth even within its more fantastical flourishes, none more so than the instant classic of its city ‘on pause’, with Julie revelling in the freedom as she joyously runs through the streets and cheekily breaking the fourth wall in the process as she seeks Elvind. The dreamy sequence is empowering, albeit fleeting in how it articulates through Julie, that genuine female desire shouldn’t be dampened, and there should be no guilt to sit within being upfront about what and who you want. The goal is indeed attainable.
Trier doesn’t shy away from the sheer misdirection and hardships scattered throughout our time here that unexpectedly enables clarity of thought. The slow descent of a beautifully lit hillside as you ponder your decisions mirroring the trajectory of a relationship that maybe has reached its peak, as the city of Oslo almost feels like a fully-fledged character in itself. Complimented by the beguiling sunset, Julie raises a wry tear-stained smile to later, with the ‘natural end’ she faces head-on, previously stoked by a wealth of hearty nostalgia. In a sea of indecision. She finally allows a wave of pure emotion to wash over her, with her at peace in how she moves forward, and it is breathtaking to witness.
Irritable with ourselves in how we erratically respond to life’s challenges. Each engaging chapter is exquisitely engineered in how they evolve. Renate Reinsve’s lead turn as Julie makes such an indelible impression, offering a painstakingly detailed portrait of a woman nailing down her identity. Bookending her performance in style, Ander Danielsen Lie’s Aksel transition from animated mirroring his comic-book profession to the stillness in his reflective musings is beautifully rendered. Whilst it’s rather fitting, Herbert Nordrum’s Elvind shares smoke with Reinsve’s Julie during their meet-cute because the charming effect his showing leaves on you lingers long after the credits have rolled; his comedic character encapsulates how fickle we can all be in a modern world when the immediacy of another romantic prospect presents itself.
The Worst Person In The World is a staggering, heart-swelling work that cuts you to the core in what it means to truly love another human being but, first and foremost…yourself.
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