This is the third film in what’s being referred to as Joachim Trier’s ‘Oslo Trilogy’, where the acclaimed writer and director shifts his focus to tell a tale from the female perspective. Co-penned with regular screenwriting partner Eskil Vogt, romantic drama The Worst Person in the World spends four years with Julie (Renate Reinsve), a thirtysomething student who finds herself at a crossroads in life. Deciding to embark on a career in photography and a relationship with older man Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), the film tracks her path to self-discovery in a millennial coming-of-age story.
Divided into a dozen chapters, the narrative provides structure to a protagonist that’s lacking it. With a frank and uncompromising approach, the script explores her thought process without judgement, making decisions that might be perceived as selfish feel justified and very relatable. Trier’s unfiltered storytelling moves like real life where the lines can be blurred between definitively good or bad characters. Julie, like the men in her life, isn’t perfect, and the love triangle that develops is more fluid than those that we’re used to seeing. In a pivotal moment, the film breaks free from authenticity for a freeze-frame fantastical sequence, giving the protagonist the type of opportunity that we, the viewer, might only imagine.
Renate Reinsve made her screen debut under the direction of Trier over a decade ago, and now takes centre stage with a wonderful leading turn. It’s not the big dramatic performance that you might expect from an impulsive character such as Julie; instead, she has a nuanced contemporary quality and is always likeable despite her faults and her less-than-glowing opinion of herself; the self-proclaimed titular worst person in the world. Danielson Lie also has previous with the filmmaker, having appeared in the other two films of the aforementioned ‘Oslo Trilogy’. He is also very good, though his supporting role does feel written only as a device to serve Julie’s development, as she reacts to his various episodes.
Presenting a refreshing modern-day slant on the genre, The Worst Person in the World is a romance dramedy that should have universal appeal. Trier has completed his triptych of Nordic tales with a flourish, and a winning portrayal from Renate Reinsve turns ordinary problems into extraordinary cinema.