The Worst Person In The World REVIEW
Is it a comedy, a tragedy, or a dramedy? GARY STEEL doesn’t care. He just wants you to go see this extraordinary film.
In the age of streaming, cinema ceases to seem as big or as eventful as it did on the big screen. We can binge to our heart’s delight but really, the sense of occasion and revelation is curtailed. The Power Of The Dog – which primarily streamed because of the pandemic – came across as a shadow of what it might have been on the cinema screen. Regardless, that rather uneventful and plot-deficient exercise in vapid cinematic indulgence can’t hold a candle to the wonders of The Worst Person In The World, another film that’s up for a few Academy awards. It’s simply a must-see and it’s on right now at your local fleapit.
Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support Witchdoctor.co.nz. and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.
Renate Reinsve is simply lustrous as Julie, a young woman whose navigation of those confusing years of early adulthood hits bump after bump. Viewers will relate to a greater or lesser degree to her confusion over long-term commitment to relationships and the pressure to make the right career choice. But that makes it seem dull, and The Worst Person In The World is anything but. Reinsve has a face that cameras love, and we spend a lot of time looking at it. Just as well, then, that it’s a face that can convey every emotion she’s feeling.
I couldn’t help feeling that in some ways Julie’s spirited character is influenced by Diane Keaton’s performance in the classic Annie Hall, but while Diane as Annie was viewed from Woody as Alvy’s perspective, in The Worst Person In The World, Renate as Julie is always centre stage and we feel as though we’re vicariously experiencing her senses and emotions. There’s an incredible scene where Julie takes magic mushrooms for the first time, which rivals Annie Hall’s famous lobster scene. But once again, where that scene is a way to show the cementing of Annie’s relationship with Alvy, Julie’s very trippy mushroom experience is much more personal.
Woody Allen made a film called Love & Death but it was a comedy, of sorts. The Worst Person In The World has comic moments – mostly arising from Julie’s unpredictable and playful character – but it’s also about love and death. It’s unique in that while the first hour unfolds like a French romance, the second refracts into a kaleidoscope of contrasts. On Wikipedia it’s called “a dark romantic comedy-drama”, but even that doesn’t convey the refreshing differences embedded in this film.
Visually, the film is captivating. Kasper Tuxen’s cinematography is sumptuous and captures both the alluring beauty of Norwegian capital Oslo and its human inhabitants with grace and subtle shadings. Apparently the third in a trilogy by director Joachim Trier, the film consists of 12 chapters as well as a prologue and an epilogue, and the odd explanatory voiceover. This kind of stylistic tic usually destroys continuity, but for once the technique is used with great skill and it actually enhances the sense of anticipation.
One of the really superb things about the writing of The Worst Person In The World is that none of the characters are clichés. Julie has her flaws and can be cruel and runs from difficult situations, but you still love her because she’s human, and she has such spirit and an essential honesty and conviction to really live her life. Her two lovers – middle-aged graphic novelist Aksel and barista Eivind – are polar opposites, but they’re both portrayed as good sorts who, like Julie, are doing the best they can. It’s really not about them, but about her journey around them to find herself. And while that might sound clichéd, and a stereotypical rite of passage, the telling of the story is completely fresh.
It’s hard to imagine coming across a better or more enjoyable film this year. See it.