The Worst Person in the World (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (2021)
Starring Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Maria Grazia Di Meo, Herbert Nordrum, Hans Olav Brenner, Lasse Gretland, Torgny Amdam, Sofia Schandy Bloch, Marianne Krogh, Rebekka Jynge, Helene Bjørnebye, Eia Skjønsberg, Vidar Sandem, Thea Stabell, Deniz Kaya, Savannah Marie Schei, Karla Nitteberg Aspelin, Anna Dworak, Nataniel Nordnes, Karen Røise Kielland, Tumi Løvik Jakobson and August Wilhelm Méd Brenner.
Screenplay by Eskil Vogt & Joachim Trier.
Directed by Joachim Trier.
Distributed by NEON. 121 minutes. Not Rated.
Screened at the 2021 Philadelphia Film Festival.
There is just one thing that I don’t get about Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s wonderful new romantic comedy The Worst Person in the World. What is the title supposed to mean?
The main character, Julie (played by the luminous Renate Reinsve, who won the Best Actress Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for her performance) is far from a bad person. Flawed? Yes. Insecure? Definitely. Complicated? Absolutely. Commitment-phobic? Probably. But the worst person in the world? Absolutely not. She’s generally a good person.
The term “the worst person in the world” was just used in passing once in the film, and that wasn’t even about Julie. It was about one of the men she dated. He also is not a bad person. In fact, the line didn’t even say that he was “the worst person in the world,” just that he felt like it.
However, if the worst concern you can find about a film is the title – particularly in the Americanized title for a Norwegian-language film – well, that’s far from the worst problem in the world.
The Worst Person in the World is a tonic for people who have grown jaded towards the romantic comedy genre. This is what romance looks like in the real world – for better or worse – and while the characters are complex and sometimes self-destructive, real feelings are being exposed.
The film follows the adventures of Julie – the film is broken into a prologue, twelve chapters and an epilogue – as she is turning 30 and trying to find herself. Julie is something of a spontaneous sort – she changes her lifetime goal from being a biology student to being a psychology student to taking up photography all in the space of the prologue.
Julie is also similarly unsure about men. She has long flitted from one man to another in her life. As one of these guys points out to her later in the film, if she becomes too happy in a relationship, she has the need to blow it up.
The Worst Person in the World mostly focuses on her relationships with two different men, although even they are just a part of the rich tapestry of her life. It also looks at her career, her strained family relations, her artistic pursuits.
The first of these two men is Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie). Aksel is a slightly older man (he’s in his 40s), creator of an underground comic which is going mainstream and which Julie once read and found slightly sexist. Julie decides to hook up with Aksel – dumping the guy with whom she was on a date in the process. She expects it to be a one-night thing. Amusingly, she only finds she is interested in him after he tells her that they have no real future because he is too old for her. Soon afterwards, she moves in with him.
However, Julie’s unsurety about everything doesn’t change. When things are going well with Aksel – their one main disagreement is that he would like to perhaps have a baby somewhere down the line and she doesn’t want to – Julie starts to stray.
While crashing a wedding party that she just happened to walk past, she meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), a local barista. (Just for the record, he was the one the term “he felt like the worst person in the world” was used about.) Both are in relationships, so they insist upon not hooking up. However, they are together through the night and things quickly get intimate in other ways – discussing sex and relationships and even getting to the point that they urinate in front of the other. They walk away at the end of the night, not giving each other their full name or number, determined to make it a one-night thing in which they didn’t cheat.
Of course, eventually they run into each other – Eivind is shopping with his girlfriend at the bookstore where Julie is working – and things progress from there. Julie breaks up with Aksel and moves in with Eivind, and of course when things start going well Julie starts to get itchy again.
However, I don’t want it to seem that Julie’s life revolves around her relationships. They are just part of the growth that she experiences, to the point that by the time the film hits the prologue, relationships are just one small part of who she has become.
As stated before, Reinsve turns in a tour-de-force performance. If this film doesn’t make her a star, there is no justice.
The Worst Person in the World gives me hope for the state of the rom-com.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 24, 2021.