Reviewed by Ben Hack
Life is complicated. Such a philosophy seems to be the only variable in Julie’s existence that doesn’t seem to be tenuous. Like many stories that follow the metamorphosis within a person’s life, we see her upon a condition of perpetual change.
Rendered in a montage in the prologue of the film, we see Julie ricocheting between hair colour, academic options and inevitably, her choices of love interests. To her, the only thing that seems indelible is uncertainty. The final instalment in director Joachim Trier’s thematically linked triptych ‘Oslo Trilogy’, never has living felt more euphoric and as despondent rendering in a tender maelstrom upon a conflicted heart.
A chronicle depicted across 12 emotionally sprawling chapters, saturating each transient moment in Julie’s life, reckons a deeper conflict of pursuit and nostalgia potently identified in the roots of her love life. In each relationship that she precipitates, comes a wistful hope to escape the liminality that she repetitively endures; a dream that, similar to everything else in her life, often perishes in evanescence. Each frame is concentrated with a vitality, brilliantly made palpable by the lead Renate Reinsve as Julie, imbued with a vibrant depth of emotion and an insatiable marvel to the highs and lows of the human experience. Her gaze idly seeks any essence of concert, a darting regard for ambition that remains annihilating on her inertia.
Love stories can often be one of the most honest treatments of examining life as we know it, being able to stylize the adrenaline and the malaise of fruitful affairs and heartache. The Worst Person In The World often augments a melange of familiar conventions upon Reinsve’s character, all without ever succumbing to a stereotype. Instead, Trier so brilliantly defies the semantics that it compounds upon by means of a delicate exploration to how relationships can affect identity, and the lateral emotional impressions of others can often muster even the slightest sense of direction.
At the core of this film is time, and its adamant march, an antagonistic spectre that lingers over Julie. Through each delicate vignette, she constantly reckons with fate, espoused with a futile desire to manage and organise memory and prospect. A concern that is graciously captured in a scene where time stands still after a period of romantic fallout, and we see Julie bristling the unusually quiet Oslo streets finally enraptured by a feeling of direction in a dream-like motion as she sets off in yearning for affirming infatuation. Yet, amidst such reveries, it’s Triers’ bruising and austere realism that deftly brings scenes like this and similar moments of effervescent magic back onto a trajectory of candour and truths – and ultimately the inevitable fluctuations of life.
Upon a gorgeous canvas of love, lust and sensation; becomes a metaphor to intimacy. A gossamer of fulfilment that spans across two impacting relationships, connections that give Julie hope and heartbreak – but never providing her in an outstanding acuity for purpose. Each decision made as corrosive and misleading as the last, a forever mercy to capricious desire, yet, perhaps is the satiable quality that makes Julie who she is – an unabashed permission to feel and experience fully a fleeting moment. Perhaps unfair to merit the title of the worst person in the world, Julie is susceptible to her bad decisions, wrongdoings and emotional sensitivity; but fundamentally, she is a devastating empathy of how quickly life can transition and the inherent beauty of changing with it.
A sincere romance to the right place at the wrong time and the wrong person at the right time, The Worst Person in the World is a ravishing artefact to the messiness of ambivalence, elegantly brought together by an unforgettably scintillant Renate Reinsve. It’s a remarkable film that will no doubt resonate to all those who feel a bit lost in challenging times.
The Worst Person in the World is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from 22 – 28 April.