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The Worst Person in the World (2021) – Review: Joachim Trier’s Anti-Romantic Romantic Comedy Is Worth a Watch

January 3, 2022

Quick Thoughts – Grade – A – With a 100% Tomatometer score (as of 01/03/2022), and an 8.1 IMDb score, The Worst Person in the World, is getting some of the best reviews of 2021. Which makes sense, considering it’s loaded with excellent performances, standout setpieces, and assured direction from Joachim Trier. It’s one of my favorite movies of 2021, and that’s because it has lingered in my memory, and proved itself to be a film with lasting appeal that tackles big themes through small events

Told in 12 chapters, with a prologue and an epilogue, The Worst Person in the World focuses on the journey of Julie (Renate Reinsve – who won Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress), a restless medical student who lives in Oslo, Norway, and leaves medical school to dabble in psychology, photography and writing in her quest for self-actualization. With so many options, a lot of intelligence, and not much pressure, Julie is able to move from interests and lovers with ease, as she’s able to burn bridges in her journey to evolve and remain curious. The Worst Person in the World is more about the journey than the destination, which proves to be its biggest strength as Julie’s decisions, indecisions, and adventures create an unhurried and introspective look into what it means to an “adult” in 2021. 

Since it’s an “anti-romantic romantic comedy,” it’s a good thing that Reinsve has excellent chemistry with the two male leads played by Herbert Nordrum and Anders Danielsen Lie (who is also in the excellent IFC film Bergman Island, which you should watch), who couldn’t be more different. Danielsen Lie plays a famous graphic novelist writer named Aksel, who is 15 years older than Julie, but the two are clearly soulmates who understand each other on an intellectual level (I love how he handles her aloof and selfish father). The problem is, Aksel wants children while the younger Julie isn’t ready for such a commitment in her life. This leads her to Eivind, a barista with a big smile, who meets Julie when she crashes a wedding. After a dangerous night of flirting as much as possible without cheating on their partners, the two can’t help but wonder what would happen if they ditched their partners, and got together. This leads to a standout moment that has been much publicized because it features Julie running around Oslo as everyone around stands frozen in time, she eventually meets with an unfrozen Eivind, and the two have a romantic moment free of consequences (she also come across a kissing couple and places the woman’s hand on her boyfriends butt). The moment is delightful and plays whimsically without feeling overly cute or out of place. 

The Worst Person in the World also keeps you guessing as it’s funny, melancholic, dramatic and occasionally bursting with life. When making the movie, Trier wanted to have fun, and take himself less seriously as he’s evolved as a filmmaker with several popular films (Reprise, Oslo August 31st) under his belt. He and co-writer Eskil Vogt wanted to “remember contrasts,” and create an experience that makes you laugh, cry, and want to avoid nights fueled by psychedelic drugs. Trier and Vogt wrote the movie with Reinsve in mind, and their long conversations with her about the character helped Reinsve play to her strengths and bring life to Julie. The end result is a modern romantic comedy that will build a dedicated cult following, and be a major player during the upcoming awards season. 

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