The Worst Person in the World is a deeply felt and raw character study. Both brutally honest and compassionately understanding in its observations of human behavior. It has been quite a while since I’ve seen a film that delves so deeply into a character’s psyche, that as the credits rolled… its as if you’ve known this human being, not for just the two hours you’ve spent with them, but rather for an entire lifetime.
Julie is young, gorgeous, intelligent, and not exactly sure what she desires in a career or partner. One night she meets Aksel, a well-known graphic novelist 15 years her senior, and they quickly fall in love. Wondering if this will be the rest of her life, she meets a coffee barista, Eivind, who is also in a relationship. Julie has to decide, not just between two men but also who she is and who she wants to be.
The movie concerns itself mostly with the fact that we as people are constantly changing and how that affects our relationships. How we fall in and out of love, how our passions and interests come and go, how our prerogatives shift… What was once so important to us, might not mean anything to us anymore. This heart-breaking (and what seems at the time earth-shattering) experience in life when you realize that a person that you love, who once fit into your life like the perfect puzzle piece, might not fit in with who you are becoming any longer… is captured so authentically here. As someone who has just entered into my thirties, these themes really resonated with me and hit so close to home that it almost made me feel uneasy.
Let’s get one thing perfectly straight, Renate Reinsve who plays our lead Julie, is a revelation here. There are absolutely no-frills, nor glamor or infallibility to this performance… She plays Julie so naturally, as if she truly understands this character inside and out. You can also tell that Reinsve has an unadulterated love for this person she is playing, faults and all. And don’t worry about what the title might infer… Even though Julie most certainly makes her fair share of mistakes in the four years this film chronicles, she is definitely not the WORST Person in the World. Rather, someone who is just as multi-faceted and complicated as you or I. And far too critical of herself. I’m sure she believes that she is the literal WORST, during a few instances in this film… which is probably what the title is referring to.
Director and co-writer Joachim Trier has a singular vision here that makes this a much less straightforward and more of a unique experience. I found the use of chapters to chronicle each of these integral moments in the four years of Julie’s life that we follow, to give the movie a strong foundation and kept the narrative from meandering around too much. Trier also gets extremely experimental with narration, perspective and visuals… a scene in which Julie is tripping on a psychedelic is weird and uncomfortable, but also perfectly places us in her mindset. And that is what Trier pulls off so beautifully with his film. Time and time again, we are constantly getting to see the world through Julie’s eyes and her way of thinking, which is a truly accomplished feat of direction.
In many ways, The Worst Person in the World reminds me a lot of Cooper Raif’s Cha Cha Real Smooth, which was also screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. They are both introspective dramedies that lay bare many of the messy realities of life and love, through the lens of a young person trying to navigate the bridge between youth and adulthood with someone who is quite a bit older than them. And they both are about so much, yet seemingly lack anything resembling a plot. But, while Raif’s film opened up its arms to the audience, ready to embrace them with a warm bear hug… The Worst Person in the World is much more droll and somber. Although it does invite you into Julie’s World with open arms, there are many times you might want to push away.
All of this to say, that while I admire this movie for so many different reasons and I really felt like I was transported into Julie’s life in a visceral way… I can’t say that I much enjoyed my time with this film (and I prefer Cha Cha Real Smooth much more). I found this movie to drag along in many spots, with some chapters lacking much purpose or impression. Although I connected with Julie because of the authentic writing and the phenomenal performance, that still doesn’t mean there’s entertainment to be had with that connection. I still highly recommend The Worst Person in the World. But after such universal praise from critics, I was expecting this to leave more of a lasting impact.
The Worst Person in the World is In Select Theaters February 4th, 2022.
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