The Worst Person in the World

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Actress Renate Reinsve is Julie, a beautiful, witty, and capricious young woman. She is unsure of what she wants to do with her life. When we are first introduced, she is a medical student in Oslo. Then she chooses to pursue psychology. After looking at some photos she has taken with her cell phone, she decides to become a photographer. Later she takes a job in a bookstore to support herself.

On the social front, she is in a serious relationship with boyfriend Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie). He is a successful comic-book artist. Aksel wants to have a child and start a family. She is not ready. Then one night, Julie crashes a random party while walking home and meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), a coffee barista. They form a connection. Her life is further complicated. The Worst Person in the World is like a rom-com filtered through the dark lens of existentialism. The ironic title could more charitably be christened “Four Years in the Life of a Free-spirited Woman.” Despite her obvious shortcomings, the film celebrates this impulsive individual. She is confident and self-possessed. The description isn’t literal, but a rather sarcastic comment on how the main character feels. Julie isn’t bad per se, merely directionless.

Julie will surely resonate with a population of Millennials who are approaching middle age. An ever-increasing segment of aimless society struggles with the so-called requirements of becoming an adult. That is, to succeed professionally, find a spouse, settle down, and have children. The drama is a tale of reality but occasionally injected with bursts of fantasy. At one point, Julie puts her commitment with Aksel on “pause” in the middle of a discussion. Time literally stands still while she sprints across town to see her lover Eivind. People, cars, and bikes are all frozen as she runs past. The trek represents a betrayal to her boyfriend. Yet this cinematic manifestation of her inner desires is a spellbinding presentation.

At the heart of the portrait is a captivating performance by Renate Reinsve. She won the Best Actress Award at Cannes in July 2021. Julie captures the audience’s attention with wit and charm. Despite this, she is a desultory and indecisive soul. Director Joachim Trier’s latest follows his earlier works Reprise (2006) and Oslo, August 31st (2011), melodramas set in Norway’s capital city. Now in retrospect, Trier has begun referring to this trio of films as his “Oslo trilogy.” The chronicle is divided into 12 chapters including a prologue and epilogue. The bit of organization is amusing given the protagonist’s complete avoidance of structure. This increasingly whimsical character is a personality defined by her relationships. Unfortunately, Julie remains just as frustratingly vague at the beginning as she does in the end. There is no development to her identity. That may effectively emulate real life, but it isn’t a satisfying resolution to a movie. Nevertheless, Renate Reinsve is very good in the role. Julie had my sympathy.


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