By Omran Al Jallaf, Third Year, Politics & International Relations
Celebrated Norwegian director Joachim Trier returns to complete his informal Oslo trilogy with The Worst Person in the World, a beautiful, tragicomic exploration of a young woman’s life and the choices she’s made.
The film opens with a memorable shot of Julie (Renate Reinsve); statuesque, standing on a balcony on a sunny afternoon, with the Oslo skyline behind her. She smokes a cigarette and checks her phone; looking calm but maybe troubled by something. So, her story begins.
Told in 12 chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue, we closely follow the events of Julie’s life from her mid-twenties to early thirties, as we watch her struggle to find her passion; flitting between different degrees, jobs, and men. She meets comic artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) at a party, and despite initial hesitation over the large age gap between them, they begin a relationship. We become invested in how their relationship progresses over time; witnessing their best moments, as well as the obstacles they have to overcome.
While Aksel’s career continues to flourish, Julie is stuck – both personally and professionally. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, she crashes a wedding party, and strikes up a conversation with Eivind (Herbert Nordrum). There is instant chemistry between them, and they playfully push each other to the limit without considering cheating on their partners. They leave the party in the early hours, parting ways, assuming never to cross paths again.
After some time has passed, however, she runs into him at the bookstore where she works, and feelings are reignited. This is the most pivotal part of the film, as Julie must take a step back and reconsider what she wants in order to be happy. The monumental decisions Julie is forced to make are instrumental in propelling the plot forward; it almost feels like a choose-your-own-adventure video game. While some of her choices might be divisive, you grow to love Julie and her chaotic energy. You find yourself really rooting for her to figure it all out, and hoping she gets it right.
Trier’s trademark existential themes – seen in the first two parts of his trilogy, ‘Reprise’ and ‘Oslo, August 31st’ – are also present here, but they are given a wonderfully modern update by tapping into humanity’s collective dread fuelled by technological devices and perpetual news cycles. Trier and Eskil Vogt’s brilliant screenplay humorously combines topical issues like climate change and male privilege with moments of profound self-reflection.
This is felt most in a heartfelt scene between Julie and Aksel, who reconnect after unforeseen circumstances. During their conversation, Aksel laments a lost way of living that has been tainted by the presence of the Internet and mobile phones; sharing his fondness for culture passed down through physical objects. His words ring incredibly true in the current digital age, where celebrating tangible art forms feels important now more than ever.
Reinsve is softly luminous as Julie; undoubtedly deserving her Best Actress win at Cannes for a career-defining role. In simple slip dresses and with her brown hair tucked into the back of sweaters; she commands attention on screen whether she’s dancing to Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’ or having a vulnerable moment with Eivind after a bizarre mushroom-induced trip.
Arguably, Julie truly is not the worst person in the world. Yes, she is reckless and impulsive, but who isn’t? She is just a person in the world, trying her best to understand herself, her needs and desires. She is indecisive and unsatisfied; always wanting more. Hence why she is immediately relatable; something in her perfectly flawed character will surely resonate with every young person daunted by the unlimited prospects of the future.
With sharp writing, cleverly shot sequences, and a great soundtrack, The Worst Person in the World is a funny, yet sensitive look at real life through the eyes of a young woman facing difficult quarter-life decisions.
Featured Image: IMDB
The Worst Person in the World is in cinemas now