“The worst person in the world”

Renate Reinsve is outstanding in Joachim Trier’s satisfying Nordic rom-com

The worst person in the world, which follows the streamlined turns of a charming, indecisive, ordinary woman in her twenties, appears at a glance like a clever but noble film about the state of millennial angst. But, like its protagonist, it is much more lively and less pretentious. In the first minutes of the film, Julie (Renate Reinsve) switches her medical studies to psychology (declaring with great conviction that her passion has always been “the soul: the mind, not the body”), breaking with her boyfriend, sleeps with her psychology teacher, gives up psychology when she finds out that she really wants to be a photographer, meets an older graphic designer and breaks up momentarily with him before moving into his apartment.

Millennial anxiety is the paralysis of constant choice. Through an eye-catching photo montage, Julie contemplates the fact that only a few generations ago, her great-great-great-grandmother had seven children at the age of 30 and her great-great-great-great -grandmother was deceased. Julie at 30 is still figuring it out – existentially wading, if you will, in an endless sea of ​​choice.

Julie’s Free Self-Determination opens before us like an album, skillfully pasted by the vision of Norwegian director Joachim Trier, with his longtime collaborator Eskil Vogt and cinematographer Kasper Tuxen. As a romantic comedy, the film surprisingly but ultimately transparently concludes Trier’s “Oslo trilogy”. The first two installments – Reprise (2006), with its New Wave echoes and brooding young actors, and the grim addiction tale of Oslo, August 31st (2011) – also showed the director’s free-spirited experimentation, but in a much darker light.

The latest Trier film retains a curious bent and an inventive flair. The worst person in the world works at a pace that seems improvised, but like a novel it’s segmented into 14 chapters, including a prologue and epilogue, and further structured by a voiceover that tells the characters’ actions in real time. Julie’s daily mercuriality takes shape and form through this literary approach. As her graphic designer boyfriend, Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), goes from strength to strength, Julie becomes more and more listless – always acting at the bookstore and taking photos as a hobby. She impulsively writes a concise, solipsistic essay titled “Oral Sex in the Age of #MeToo”. For a moment, it is seen and somewhat validated: by Aksel, and by internet. Julie’s angst and gravity are conveyed with perfect comedic timing.

In another episode, Julie throws a party and develops an intense chemistry with Eivind (Herbert Nordrum). Their interaction quickly becomes a teasing but serious exploration of the limits of cheating: can they share a beer? Can they inhale cigarette smoke through each other’s mouth? Can they watch themselves urinate? Does that make one of them the worst titular person in the world, whose identity we never really know? Morals are cast in an opaque light through their encounter, like an endless series of problems to be solved in joy and confusion. Trèves effortlessly and lightly mixes the philosophical questions of good and bad, good and bad, in an uncertain reality.

The worst person in the world succeeds both as an arthouse film and as a romantic comedy as it embraces the tropes of the latter, using them as sentimental pillars to support the tangled realities of the characters. The deliciously sparkling fantasies of a romantic comedy come to life in a particularly iconic sequence in which Julie literally stops time and spends a day with Eivind wandering around Oslo. Captivated by each other, the lovers play out a familiar fairy tale as time goes by. Yet the episodic nature of the film makes it clear that this is a transitional phase in the lifespan of the relationship, as the couple travel the well-mapped path from happiness and fascination to little frustrations and frustration. dissatisfaction. Certain crossroads have been passed under a microscope, as when we witness the unfolding of a rupture: a state of denial followed by anger and sorrow, attempts to understand and console each other, one begging the other to do so. go out, all tempered by flashes of intimacy and familiarity. This series of shots is emphasized by the narrator anticipating the words and actions of the characters. The use of stereotypical rom-com elements provides a clear framework which actually allows for a more granular and affecting emotional unfolding. Trier cleverly maximizes the genre’s relatable tropes to provide a compassionate reminder of how we live and love.

The two protagonists, Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie, both of whom have worked with Trier before, are essential to the film’s lovable enthusiasm. Danielsen Lie is a longtime contributor (having appeared in Reprise and Oslo, August 31st), and he brings a melancholy humanism to every role. This is evident in his portrayal of melancholy and at times offensive Aksel, whose story takes the heaviest turn of any character in the film. Reinsve, who appeared briefly in Oslo, August 31st, is exceptionally charismatic and natural in the role of Julie, which was written especially for her and for which she won the award for Best Actress at Cannes. She is a graceful and versatile presence on screen; Trier has unearthed a star.

The worst person in the world feels relevant and refreshing; light as a feather and yet substantial. Marrying the philosophical and the mundane in an intimate portrait, he walks through the often amusing, often touching minutiae of life. With understated flair, the latest offering from Trier is an eternally curious and gentle meditation on the seasons of life. In short, it’s intensely satisfying viewing. As Art Garfunkel sings in “Waters of March”, who plays on the final stage: “It’s a shard of glass / It’s life, it’s the sun / It’s night, it’s the death… / It’s the promise of life / It’s joy in your heart ”.

The worst person in the world is in theaters from December 26.

Michelle wang

Michelle Wang is a lawyer, writer and critic based in Gadigal Land / Sydney.

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