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17 March 2024

The Worst Person in the World

Director:   Joachim Trier             128 Minutes                 Cert:15 

Norway: 2021             

At the heart of The Worst Person in the World isRenateReinsve, who scooped the Best Actress award at Cannes for her extraordinary performance as Julie. We meet her as a scatter-brained medical student in Oslo who changes the focus of her studies (psychology, then photography) as frequently as she changes partners (a model, her professor, a famous comic book artist). It’s the third of these, Aksel – played by the quietly charismatic Anders Danielsen Lie, a full-time doctor in real life who moonlights as an actor – whom she ultimately falls for, and over the next 12 chapters, we see their relationship play out in minute, and sometimes painful, detail.

While on holiday, the pair argue about the prospect of having children. On another night, when Aksel is surrounded by comic book fans at a publishing event, Julie gatecrashes a different party and embarks on a chaste flirtation with a barista named Eivind (Herbert Nordrum).

Much has been made of the scene in which she wanders through Oslo as everyone except for her and Eivind are frozen in time – it’s magical, but it wasn’t my favourite thing about the film. Its greatest strength, I think, is its nuance and naturalism: Julie’s expression seems to shift second by second from satisfaction to regret, longing, boredom and back again.

Trier does not judge his characters. This is what makes The Worst Person In The World so fresh and invigorating. Julie leaves Aksel for Eivind, is occasionally cruel to the latter and resumes a friendship with the former, but Trier never draws a line from these relationships to the equally dysfunctional one she has with her father.

The Worst Person in the World is hysterically funny, deeply moving, and captures the messiness and uncertainty of modern life better than almost anything that’s come before it.

From Radhika Seth  British Vogue

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Showing this Season::

6 January 2020