DIRECTOR: Joachim Trier

CAST: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum, Hans Olav Brenner, Helene Bjørneby, Vidar Sandem, Maria Grazia Di Meo, Lasse Gretland, Karen Røise Kielland, Marianne Krogh, Thea Stabell, Deniz Kaya, Eia Skjønsberg

RUNNING TIME: 121 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A young woman in Oslo (Reinsve) navigates a rocky love life as she discovers who she is…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Among its many subversions of the classic romantic-comedy formula, The Worst Person in the World – from prominent Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier – features a scene where our protagonist shares numerous intimacies with a complete stranger at a wedding party she’s just crashed, which include smelling each other’s armpits to peeing in front of one another, but never so far across the line to properly cheat on their current partners. It’s unusual, sure, but that’s part of the fun; Trier’s lively and fiercely unique stab at the rom-com genre is filled with plenty of eccentricities, and leans into each and every one to deliver a coming-of-age-after-coming-of-age story that does well to stand out as a true one-of-a-kind.

Told in twelve chapters, with a prologue and epilogue bookending it all, The Worst Person in the World follows a young woman on the cusp of thirty named Julie (Renate Reinsve), whose impulses cause her to flip-flop between different career choices – first she wants to dabble in a psychology degree, then changes her mind and switches to photography – and, most crucially, her tastes in men. She first falls for and moves in with cartoonist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), who is ten years her senior, but soon sparks a connection with coffee barista Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) whom she meets at the aforementioned wedding party. As we follow Julie during her complicated existence, she begins to discover more and more what kind of person she truly is, and how she can hold on to something or someone without suddenly moving towards whatever comes her way next.

The best way to describe The Worst Person in the World is like if it were a less whimsical and more grounded version of Amélie, while still retaining some of its less obnoxious eccentricities. Trier’s film delightfully indulges in a number of tongue-in-cheek storytelling motifs, from a narrator occasionally chiming in to detail some of the events as they’re happening in real-time, to heightened fantasy sequences like a trek across the city of Oslo while the world is frozen in place, but always keeping its main character and the ever-evolving journey she’s on firmly at its core without losing itself to its own style. It is a very lively method of direction, as it keeps its energetic pace going right the way through without many lulls, and Trier’s script (co-written by regular collaborator Eskil Vogt) is filled with amusing, often darkly funny dialogue that blends showbiz satire – Aksel is dismayed to learn that his politically incorrect cartoon character is being drastically altered for an upcoming Christmas family movie – and real, honest observations about the unrealistic expectations we place upon our own love lives. Their script, incidentally, was just nominated for the Original Screenplay Oscar, and in plenty of moments you can see why that is.

A movie like this, with a protagonist who on paper is such a complicated figure and far from any straightforward rom-rom lead, would crumble in an instant if the wrong actress was cast – but Renate Reinsve, in what is sure to be a global star-making performance, is the perfect person for the job. Personifying the word “charming” at every available opportunity, Reinsve manages to give her character a gigantic boost of humanity; despite what the title might suggest, Julie is not necessarily a bad person, but with all the uncertainties in her life and the spontaneous, sometimes hurtful things she says and does, she certainly feels like it. That level of self-deprecation she carries with her throughout does reek of millennial narcissism, but Reinsve’s truly engaging screen presence ensures that we are smiling when she smiles, crying when she cries, and experiencing all sorts of other emotions right along with her. It would be wrong to call this character “unlikeable” despite the questionable things she does throughout, because Reinsve ingeniously makes you root for her to finally find her footing amidst all of these odd and surreal episodes she has unwittingly found herself to be at the very centre of, and so while you may not exactly agree with everything Julie stands for, you’re still engaged with her journey and upbeat, unmistakably magnetic charisma. She is, in many senses, a revelation.

There is a great deal to like, even love, about The Worst Person in the World, which does make it a stand-out choice for those looking for a suitable anti-rom-com for future Valentine’s Day movie nights. It isn’t too in-your-face with how far it’s straying from the traditional formula, working its lively and anecdotal storytelling to mostly pleasing effect (though one or two brief chapters, including one detailing the rapid transformation of one supporting character’s relationship after a spiritual camping trip, feel like they could have been trimmed at the very least in order to stick closer to the point), and of course it’s a fantastic showcase for its lead actress who is set to take the world by storm following the release of this film (she’s already well on her way, having won the Best Actress award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and is currently nominated for the BAFTA of the same category; the first of many throughout her career, surely).

At this point, you really would have to be the worst person in the world to not fall for this movie’s impeccable charm.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Worst Person in the World is a lively and charming exploration of an unorthodox rom-com lead, played in a star-making performance by the wonderful Renate Reinsve, who under solid direction and writing by Joachim Trier thrives in an eccentric but blissfully grounded adventure that’s hard to resist.

The Worst Person in the World will be released in cinemas nationwide on Friday 25th March 2022.

It is also coming soon to MUBI – click here to get your free 7-day trial today with Amazon Prime Video!

Did you like this review? Want to know when the next one comes out?

Sign up to our e-mail service today, and get our latest reviews and previews sent straight to your inbox!