Joachim Trier's romantic comedy and drama feature explores the coming of age genre for those who, by society’s standards, should have already found themselves.
By Cassandra Nava, Editor-in-Chief
Julie (Renate Reinsve), an indecisive thirtysomething, is the ‘worst person in the world’ in Joachim Trier’s amazingly relatable 2021 film, which explores the feeling of being lost in life. The titular character stumbles in and out of relationships, hoping to find a piece of herself in each decision.
Told in 14 chapters, including a prologue and epilogue, the Norwegian film follows Julie as she grapples with her identity. She struggles with deciding a major, a passion, a partner — each problem as impactful to the trajectory of her life as the next. Through her relationships, Julie forms her identity or at least comes to terms with it. The context of her love life provides a realistic portrayal of just how much another person can impact individual life choices. Whether the audience views her relationship with her older boyfriend Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), her love interest Elvind (Herbert Nordrum) or her father (Vidar Sandem), each chapter acts as a peephole into the life of an off-course young adult.
First released in January 2021 in Norway (and released nationwide on Feb. 4, 2022), “The Worst Person in the World,” received worldwide acclaim. Reinsve’s organic delivery and natural charisma led her to win best actress at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, an awards ceremony held in France that honors worldwide cinema. Nationwide, the film has been nominated for “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best International Feature Film” by the Academy Awards (which take place on March 27).
The awards and nominations come as no surprise, as the dialogue and delivery of the actors propel the film past cheesy romantic comedy tropes. Through the use of a narrator and unique editing placed carefully in certain chapters, audiences are never stuck in a moment for too long.
Julie’s first serious partner introduced is Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a graphic novelist whose crude drawings are comparable to R. Crumb. However, his immature art style does not reflect his personality but rather contrasts it. Twice her age and ready to settle down, Aksel forces Julie to think about the future of their life together. At this point, tension is palpable and her fear of placing all of her time in one person is thrown in her face.
Her alternate admirer is Elvind, who differs from Aksel by not applying pressure, partly because he too is figuring himself out. Although just as special, their love story reveals how fleeting love at first sight can be.
The significance of time is a crucial element in moving the story forward. It is either not the right time, too much, too little or time simply ceases to exist. In a gorgeous scene that viewers can only appreciate through the medium of film, Julie stops the clock with the flick of a light switch to spend a day with someone she can not take her mind off of, even if she knows it is wrong. The dreamlike sequence featured real people of Oslo, Norway, frozen in the streets (done without using any kind of special effects), while Julie and her current romantic interest are the only ones in motion, exploring the age-old theme of wishing to be with the one you love without any distractions.
By the end of the four-year glimpse into Julie’s life, viewers are left with the same melancholy feeling that the protagonist endures. The film’s bittersweet conclusion shows the struggles of choosing a path and the dreadful feeling of not knowing what lies at the end. But that is the comedy of it all, reassuring oneself into thinking the right choice was made — when there is never a way to know for sure.