The Worst Person in the World is an enchanting but dark Nordic coming-of-age-rom-com by Joachim Trier, starring a luminous, award-winning central performance by Renate Reinsve.
Who, Me Too?by Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
When you’ve seen The Worst Person in the World, you can’t help but agree that Renate Reinsve, who plays Julie (pronounced Yulia), the central character, is luminous, enchanting and that she deservedly won the best actress award when Joachim Trier’s popular film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year.
However, opinions on the film itself may polarise depending on your response to Julie, and whether you’re a millennial or in an older age group.
The film is organised in 12 chapters, with an epilogue, prologue and an omniscient narrator’s distancing voiceover. It chronicles Julie’s enthusiasms, relationships and wrong decisions at different stages in her life from her student days to her thirties. It’s as if she is waiting for something in life but doesn’t know what it is. And until she finds a career path she actually only seems to work in a bookstore.
We see two of her relationships. Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), an established comic book artist whose work is offensive to feminists, is 15 years older than her so they are at different stages in their lives. He wants to settle down with her and have a baby: he introduces her to his forty-something friends but what Julie sees of mundane family life with children appals her.
Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) is Julie’s age but just a barista. Their chemistry ignites in a cute meet when she gatecrashes a wedding reception. There’s a stunning fantasy scene when time stands still as she runs across Oslo to find him. And a cathartic one involving his friends, magic mushrooms and her estranged father.
The Worst Person in the World shows Julie’s coming of age but without much context other than her relationships – there’s just an isolated provocative blog post about sex in the age of #Me Too. Is the film an inventive look at the life of a young woman turning 30 in the 21st century (she contrasts herself with what previous generations of women in her family have achieved by that age) and her fear of making the wrong choices in life or is it a middle-aged man’s idea of a younger woman? Whichever, if you can accept its premise, it’s a charming, engaging and, in the end, surprising watch.
The Worst Person in the World premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. It is released in UK cinemas on 25 March and on MUBIvon 13 May 2022. It is Norway’s nomination for International Feature Film and Best Screenplay for the Oscars.