Movie Review: The Worst Person in the World (Verdens verste menneske)

Watching last week’s telecast of this year’s Oscar nominees, I couldn’t help but bristle at Tracey Ellis Ross’ mangling of director Joachim Trier’s name. Granted, it was 5:30 am at the time and my friend swears that Ross was either drunk, sleep-deprived or both, but how hard is it to pronounce “Joachim” given that she can probably get Joaquin Phoenix’s name right on the first go? Or maybe she can’t.

Anyhow, the Norwegian filmmaker is up for two Oscars this year, one for Best Original Screenplay along with his long-time collaborator Eskil Vogt, and one for Best International Feature Film. Both nominations are for his film, THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD, which in December won the Best Foreign Language Film award from the New York Film Critics Circle, and saw its star, actress Renate Reinsve, take home the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival last July.

In the film, Julie (Reinsve, Trier’s OSLO, AUGUST 31ST) is a resident of Oslo on the cusp of her 30th birthday who is trying to find her place in the world. When we first meet her, she’s a medical student but she soon gives that up to study psychology. That plan quickly falls by the wayside and she takes up photography, which doesn’t last long either, before settling into a job as a clerk in a bookstore. Along the way, she hooks up with a series of men until she meets Aksel (Trier regular Anders Danielsen Lie), an author of a graphic novel that she finds “vaguely sexist”. Aksel is in his early 40s and tells Julie that their relationship will never last as he’d like to have children and she doesn’t, but Julie, who doesn’t have the best track record in life, won’t listen. Eventually, though, Aksel is proven right when Julie meets and falls for Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), who works as a barista. Eivind, however, is already in a relationship with another woman.

Told in twelve titled chapters along with a prologue and epilogue, it’s easy to think that Julie is the worst person in the world but that sobriquet is saved for another character. Even so, she is horrible but Trier and Vogt manage to make her a sympathetic character even while she’s making bad choice after bad choice. Julie is almost the kind of character that one would find in a Noah Baumbach film except that she’s not loathsome as Roger Greenberg, nor or as delightfully flaky as Frances Halladay. Throughout her journey of self-discovery, we keep rooting for her, hoping that she’ll finally find her place in the world without breaking too many hearts along the way. Reinsve is wonderful as Julie, and her Cannes win is well deserved as she ably carries the film on her shoulders. Maybe it’s just me, but I think she bears more than a passing resemblance to Dakota Johnson. If Hollywood should remake the film, Johnson would be a good choice for the role.

Some critics are calling THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD a comedy but I’m not one of them. Yes, there are some comedic moments but it’s more of a romdram than a romcom or a dramedy. There’s also a flirting scene that is hotter than anything we’ve seen on the big screen in quite some time!

THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD began a limited release in the US on February 4th so that it could qualify for the Oscars.  It’s slowly starting to roll out to other countries now.  When it comes to a cinema near you, certainly check it out. It’s an interesting journey.

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