The Worst Person in the World: An Instant Classic

My friends and I often joke that to some person, at some time, we were the worst person in the world. Whether it was a split second or months of hatred, at one point or another we have all pissed someone off so royally, that to them we were the centre of their rage — we were The Worst Person in the World.

Although this is the third in Joachim Trier’s ‘Oslo Trilogy’, I have not seen the first nor the second in the trilogy, but neither are necessary to watch The Worst Person in the World. Premiering in competition at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, our leading actor Renate Reinsve was awarded Best Actress for the film, and it was selected as the Norwegian entry for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards. I wish I could do this film justice, but I do not have the articulation to do so, my words will suffice as a sliver of an explanation of how incredible this film is. Joachim Trier created perhaps the most cutting and accurate of human emotion and rationality in film.

I am sure December is a hectic time of year for most people, but as a retail manager I have found myself with little time to do much else than sleep and work. Because of this I told myself I would watch this film in sections, perhaps thirty minutes a day, but I couldn’t. It was too captivating. My exhausted and malnourished brain soldiered through all two hours of this film in one sitting because I did not want it to end.

Told in twelve parts, a prologue and an epilogue, The Worst Person in the World follows Julie, as she purely attempts to uncover how she wants to spend her life and her relations with those within it. In the prologue we see Julie change from a medical degree to a psychology degree to a photography degree, as her passions change, and she dedicates herself to a sliver of interest in each of these things. Subtly demonstrating Julie’s fleeting interest, her impulsiveness, and her lack of a pathway. I do take insult to the idea that Julie working in a bookstore is a failure and that she should have higher aspirations when I have been yearning for a bookstore job for years with no success — but I digress.

There is no such thing as the worst person in the world, or more so we are all the worst people in the world, so it all cancels it out. Every single character in this film could be considered the ‘worst’ — Aksel with his sexist cartoons and Sunniva with her yoga, each character, in their own ways, is completely insufferable. But we only see these sides of Aksel and Sunniva as Trier carefully allows us too, as Eivind and Julie fall out of love with them. A careful unpeeling of the process of falling out of love, and sequentially falling in love again. The mourning and manipulation of a break-up how our minds villainise our exes and then, once again, how we change perception to forgive our exes and their flaws.

Many would consider this a romantic comedy, and it is, but Trier combines this under-appreciated genre with a coming-of-age setting. It’s gentle, it’s deep, it’s funny. It is the best film I have seen this year so far. The quest for love can turn us into the worst people imaginable; but that’s just humanity, baby.

Review Written by Mackenzie Stolp

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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