Director: Joachim Trier
Writers: Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Production: Oslo Productions, MK2 Productions, Film i Väst, Snowglobe, BR.F, Arte France Cinéma, Memento Distribution, MK2 Films, ARTE, Norwegian Film Institute, Danish Film Institute, Nordic Film & TV Fund, Swedish Film Institute
Platforms: Theatrical Release (Reviewed)
Release Date: Out Now!
This might end up as one of my least structured reviews. See, sometimes you watch a film and it feels underwhelming, even a disservice, to subsequently go and talk about it critically, because it manages to depict life in such a powerfully authentic way (Eighth Grade springs to mind as another I would say this about). Norwegian masterpiece The Worst Person in the World is such a rare, earnest, and absorbing piece of filmmaking, and I’d prefer just trying to describe the emotion it strikes.
From the start, you get the sense that you’re about to watch something a bit different – the opening titles are set onto bold, attractive colours, with sophisticated typography telling the audience to expect a prologue, 12 chapters, and an epilogue. The film tells the story of Julie (Renate Reinsve), a young woman in her late 20s finding her way through life in Oslo. We see her navigate romance, work, and her own sense of self; relationships being the factor given most focus.
Sure, there’s plenty of slice of life premises out there, so this might not sound that original – but it’s the lead performance, and the remarkably real presentation of it all, that grabs you in astonishing fashion. Reinsve is incredible, embodying all sorts of emotions both through body language and the natural-feeling dialogue. Matched by cinematography that isn’t afraid to move around (but never distracts), I found myself in that wonderful place where I forgot I was in a movie theatre; instead, I was there in the world being created on screen, and every event felt meaningful, like something I knew I’d want to remember for later chapters of the film.
Speaking of, that 12-chapter structure is ingenious, as even when I was revelling in the spontaneous happenstances and interaction of early chapters, I knew I had a new “chapter” of Julie’s life awaiting me fairly shortly. It has the effect of preventing the film ever getting stale, and taps into that feeling of how life really is a whirlwind of overlapping coincidences, experiences, and surprises – with plenty of natural levity as a result, too! There are several conversational scenes that leapt out for how emotionally intelligent they felt.
Also, I really liked how this film showed Julie as a woman who was never defined by her relationships with others, but undoubtedly learned about herself and grew from each one. I’m not going to pretend I can relate or fully understand this subject as others might, but I do think it was noticeably refreshing how this film put a full spotlight on the life of a modern woman, being unafraid to show her good and bad moments without ever putting her on a pedestal.
Often, films are at their best when they become something less defined; they’re another life to get lost in, to learn from, to laugh along with. The Worst Person in the World is one of those films; the sort of story that reminds you of the magic of the movies.