Joachim Trier’s new film “The Worst Person in the World” cheerfully and thoughtfully rolls along with its ordinary but unforgettable heroine’s life, and I like that a lot. As observing those small ups and downs in her private life, I somehow came to reflect more on how my own private life has been these days, and I eventually felt a little better about my life in addition to wanting to tell her that she is certainly not the worst person in the world. After all, I have been no better than her at all in case of handling life and love since I entered adulthood 22 years ago, and, knowing so well how one can often feel quite bad about oneself, I frequently observed her story with knowing smiles during my viewing.
Consisting of a prologue, 12 chapters, and an epilogue, the movie mainly revolves around a young woman named Julie (Renate Reinsve), and the prologue gives us the overview of her several years of adulthood. At first, she was eager to study medicine, but then she subsequently decided that she was more interested in psychiatry, and then she later moved onto photography once it looked like to her that she fit better in that field.
In case of her private life, we see her quickly attracted to a guy who did some modeling for her photography, but then she comes across Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), an acclaimed comic artist who is considerably older than her. Despite their age gap, it does not take much time for them to get closer to each other, and, what do you know, they eventually start to live together in his residence.
Several years later, their relationship seems to be more stable than before, but we soon come to sense some strain between them. When Aksel suggests that they should have a child, Julie does not wholly agree to his suggestion, and she becomes more uncertain about having a child when she and Aksel go to the house of one of Aksel’s friends, who incidentally has a wife and several kids. As watching Aksel’s friend and his family, Julie considers changing her position on having a child, but then she and Aksel come to witness some imperfections in the married life of Aksel’s friend, and that seems to solve their relationship issue for now.
However, Julie finds herself subsequently becoming more distant to Aksel. Although they have been pretty accustomed to each other, she cannot help but feel rather discontent about the current state of her life, and then she suddenly comes across the possibility of another romance at a party into which she impulsively slips during one evening. She happens to be spotted by a guy named Elvind (Herbert Nordrum), and she willingly lets herself attracted to this guy as they talk more and more with each other. While they do not cross the line between them at all, they come to feel more of the mutual attraction between them as they playfully interact with each other, and she becomes more aware of her discontent with her relationship with Aksel.
Now the movie may look like your average romantic comedy drama to you, but the screenplay by Trier and his usual collaborator Eskil Vogt frequently surprises us as avoiding those familiar genre clichés and conventions, and the result is quite moving at times in addition to often being very humorous. We get some laughs as our heroine unpredictably bounces from one point to another during her bumpy emotional journey, but we also come to understand and emphasize with her more than expected. Furthermore, the movie pays considerable attention to several other characters in the story including Aksel, who probably understands Julie more than anyone else in the story even though he is not exactly an ideal life partner for her.
As the story casually flows in one direction or another, Renate Reinsve’s strong performance, which deservedly received the Best Actress Award when the movie was shown at the Cannes Film Festival several months ago, keeps holding our attention from the beginning to the end. Thanks to her nuanced natural acting, we gradually come to sense her character’s gradual maturation over the story, and that is why it is touching to see the eventual arrival point of her character’s emotional journey. While there is some bittersweet feeling, life is still going on for her as before, and the movie simply lets us gather that she will be probably fine regardless of whatever will come next in her ongoing life.
Reinsve is also supported well by two main cast members surrounding her. Without overshadowing Reinsve at all, Anders Danielsen Lie, who previously collaborated with Trier in “Reprise” (2006) and “Oslo, 31 August” (2011), effectively complements her during their several key scenes, and he and Reinsve are especially terrific when their characters try to cope with a serious situation which is very painful for both of them. As another man in the story, Herbert Nordrum makes a good contrast with Lie, and we can easily discern what our heroine sees from his character.
On the whole, “The Worst Person in the World”, which was selected as Norway’s submission to Best International Film Oscar a few months ago and then was recently included in the shortlist, is another fabulous work from Trier. I did not like his first feature film “Reprise” enough, but then he impressed me a lot with his next film “Oslo, 31 August”, and then he gave us “Louder than Bombs” (2015) and “Thelma” (2017), which are also interesting to watch in each own way. Although its title is not exactly disarming or uplifting, the movie, which is incidentally the last chapter of his Oslo trilogy after “Reprise” and “Oslo, 31 August”, is much more charming and elevating than you may think, and I am glad to report you here that it is indeed one of best movies of last year.