THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (Verdens verste menneske)
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Joachim Trier
Screenwriter: Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier
Cast: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum, Hans Olav Brenner, Helene Bjøreby, Vidar Sandem
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/25/21
Opens: February 4, 2022
Most people in the U.S. who marry in their teens get divorced. But women who think will delay matrimony, playing the field until they’re in their 30’s, which becomes the age that college educated folks get married here in large numbers. The more education you get, though, the more confused you can be. Using their brains and their cultured backgrounds, men and women might be awfully confused during their 20’s, going hither and thither, not knowing which of their partners is the right one, and what’s worse, not confident that the field they choose is really for them.
Julie (Renate Reinsve) is an example of the latter, with her professional life even more confusing than typical. So what? She resists society’s mandates, though in the Scandinavian countries there is not the same pressures as here in the States. Julie is Norwegian, lives in Oslo, whose disorientation is described by director Joachim Trier. She is like the title character in Trier’s “Thelma,” about another confused woman whose religious upbringing causes conflict with a potential mate. Expect a film with more nuances than most, one whose tones alternate between depressing and droll. The humor is on the dry side; the sadness heartbreaking.
Consider that Renate Reinsve won “Best Actress” at Cannes, so you know you are in for a treat. This Julie, would you believe, quits medical school, thinks of being a photographer, and instead winds up as a salesperson in a bookstore. Knowing that Oslo is the most expensive city in Europe with residents paying huge taxes, you may wonder how she can afford an apartment. During Julie’s years when most women have made up their minds on their future partners, Julie moves in with Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), who is forty-four years old to Julie’s twenty-nine. Having given up medicine for her bookstore job, she is on a lower status level than he, as he is a successful writer of underground graphic novels even picked up by a film company. She hooks up with Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) who is on her level as he dispenses coffee in a Starbucks-style place, yet we wonder why Julie, who is the worst person in the world because she breaks Aksel’s heart, makes the nutty decision to make Eivind her main man.
In the movie’s most cinematic scene, Aksel is making coffee in his flat. Julie runs out before the drink is ready. Action other than Julie’s race through Oslo streets is frozen as she runs into the arms of Eivind. Another whimsical scene shows Julie taking part in magic mushrooms, hallucinating but without gaining special insights into her life. Nothing remains the same: Aksel suffers a decline in popularity when he insults a feminist interviewer who accuses him of writing misogynistic comic strips, to which Aksel tries to defend himself by noting that the interviewer is younger, at a different generational stage when women no longer take crap.
Life moves on. Julie has learned little from four years’ experience shown in her story; still indecisive, brooding when she sees a former lover now settled with a wife and kid. This is not a glitzy Hollywood tale which would have the hero redeeming herself, happy at last, and there’s thankfully almost no music in the soundtrack that would distract from the dialogue. Here is romance as it really is: full of contradictions, decisions which are often wrong but can sometimes be rectified.
121 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+