3 min read

The Worst Person In The World

Honest can sometimes be a bad word.
The Worst Person In The World

I don't think I would like to watch Joachim Trier's "The Worst Person In The World" again.

It's a very good movie. An excellent movie, actually.

But I don't think I'll be watching it again. Everyone should consider watching it once. But I'm not going to be watching it again, no, not for at least five years.

It's a fantastic, powerful, entertaining, heartfelt movie. It has incredible performances, with strong characters, a sense of humour, and a structure that flows like music. It also left me feeling like I had just finished an excruciating session of therapy.

It's simply baffling that a movie with a protagonist as lived in as Julie, played effortlessly by Renate Reinsive, is so resonant. It's an immense contradiction. Julie is not cookie-cutter, not bland, not flat, and really, not generalizable as a character. She is a specific woman in her young 20s. She is specifically flawed. She is specifically strong.

She is not a blank canvas for us to throw our feelings at and feel heard. She is borne from a specific cultural malaise, a millennial ennui of uncertainty and aspirations. And she makes decisions that will upset and delight you, because you can see yourself making those same choices.

I describe Reinsive as effortless in playing Julie because it hardly feels like a performance. The film's introduction tells us that this story will be bound into twelve chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. That had me thinking there would be some superimposed structure, artificially segmenting the movie. But instead, each section bleeds into the next, either literally or emotionally. Some may find certain chapters extraneous, unnecessary to the primary drive of the film. But that's a misunderstanding of the film's structure. We are getting the totality of her life, and every bit of that informs Julie across the chapters.

Reinsive's fully realized performance is made even stronger by her two co-stars, Anders Danielsen Lie and Herbert Nordrum. Nordrum and Lie play characters who grow and regress with Julie, all with pitch-perfect chemistry. And not the contrived chemistry of completing each other's sentences, but a nuanced, complicated chemistry of forbidden lust, stolen glances, and the potential for regret.

Describing "The Worst Person In The World" as a mirror is inadequate. It actually is more like a mirror attached to a magnifying glass with an x-ray lens. Because during this movie, you are being pried apart. In so many scenes, I could see myself as its characters, even, or rather especially, when they were fighting. That's not just because I'm a narcissist. It's because Joachim Trier has made a movie not so much about love, but about how we love and the particularities, the contradictions, the misgivings that come from that.

There is a break-up scene in this film that is absolutely brutal, not because it is highly dramatic or eloquent, but because it communicates with such honesty the confusion and indecision that comes with the end of a relationship. It is not neat. It is not a Gordian knot severed swiftly. It is a fraying rope that stitches and unstitches itself. And in that mess, in the fray, you will see yourself, having pulled on both ends of the rope.

But it isn't about you or me It's about the two specific characters, drifting apart for their respective reasons. But if anything, that makes it cut deeper.

That commitment to honesty doesn't necessitate an insistence on realism. Trier utilizes inventive set-pieces, that step outside of reality for a few minutes at a time. These scenes don't pull us away from Julie; Instead, they pull us deeper in. They're not literally true. But they're emotionally true, and if we're talking about love, one of those matters more than the other.

I can't even tell you the moment when I realized I was projecting myself into the film. But based on my conversations with other people, this wasn't a product of my narcissism. There is something universally true about the film, that snatches you away. And while it has its grip on you, you're going to be watching the movie with one half of your brain and remembering flashes of your life with the other. It's delightful, it's funny, and it's difficult. It's a movie I'm incredibly glad I watched. And also a movie, I know despite my feelings now, I will end up watching again.

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