Fair warning: I want to gush about this movie. I want to write that it's cinema! that ignites your very soul! I loved it. (And I'm not the only one; it's already picked up fancy awards.)
The third film in director Joachim Trier’s Oslo Trilogy, The Worst Person in the World centers on the otherwise ordinary existence of young Julie as she struggles to find direction over four years of her life. It's in the ordinary that the film finds something transcendent. This is due in no small part to how actress Renate Reinsve plays Julie with a dynamic and devastating grace, carrying the character through new emotional heights with ease.
In her performance, Reinsve captures a youthful uncertainty that morphs into pain. (Here comes the gushing.) It's not just one of the best performances of the last year, but, in general, is one of the most truthful depictions of how melancholy can take hold of a person's future. As Julie struggles to find purpose in her life, Trier guides viewers through her experiences with a confident yet compassionate hand. The result is a portrait of all the facets of who Julie is. The friend, the writer, the photographer, the dreamer, the lover, and, ultimately, the imperfect, flawed person.
The film could and has been described as an anti-romantic comedy, though it's much more than that. Yes, Julie goes through romances throughout the film, and there are moments of humor, which are always earned. But it's the total gut punches that the story finds that knocked me flat. The extended conversation scenes Reinsve has alongside actor Anders Danielsen Lie, who plays her partner Aksel, are a standout.
Trier's ambitious presentation and moments of visual flair completely swept me up. One particular drug trip sequence is especially flair-ful, with Julie happily wandering through surrealness—and when she finally comes down, it ripped me apart. The film eventually settles into a tentative peace, and by the time its absolutely perfect ending song played, I wished I could start it over. (Fortunately I can, because it's playing in-person at SIFF Uptown starting Feb. 11.)
You can watch The Worst Person in the World virtually via Sundance starting Jan. 21. Find out more about the fest here.