Sundance Review: Joachim Trier’s ‘The Worst Person In The World’ Tugs At Your Heartstrings
As people approach their late 20s and early 30s an internal clock starts to tick as they begin to analyze their lives against those around them. Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World follows a medical student, Julie, played by Renate Reinsve, as she navigates this part of her life through a series of chapters that each play out like a vignette. Across these twelve chapters we see Julie juggle relationships and her career as she races against life’s most limited resource, time.
Opening with her considering a shift from medical school to psychology before ultimately deciding to pursue photography it’s clear that at this point in time Julie is lost on her journey through life and that’s when she meets Aksel Willman (played by Anders Danielsen Lie) which sets off a relationship that spearheads the rest of the movie. It’s always Julie’s story but Aksel definitely plays a huge part in it even as their relationship begins to hit it’s own hurdles.
The story beats themselves are pretty standard and definitely doesn’t deviate too far from other genre staples but the execution and attention paid to the smaller moments all help the final hour pay off with an emotionally satisfying conclusion that’s sure to make you fight back a tear or two. The performances from both Anders and Reinsve really bring these characters to life in those emotional moments and there’s a real growth to these characters from the first time we meet them to the time the credits roll. Herbert Nordrum also delivers a nice supporting role as Elvind who is introduced early on in the story and forces Julie to reconsider her relationship with Aksel.
Cinematography is pretty safe throughout although it never really needs to be super elaborate in a movie with a script as tightly written as this one. There are a few moments that inject a bit of fantasy into it with Julie seemingly freezing time to contemplate a very important moment in her life and going on an adventure with everybody frozen into place. This is a huge turning point in the movie and it was nice to see the change up highlight the mindset of Julie at a point where her life is seemingly moving too fast to allow her the time to make a proper decision and the fantastical adventure is a nice way to showcase that.
At two hours and twelve chapters (which doesn’t include the prologue or epilogue) it at times felt to drag a bit while I was watching it unfold but upon seeing where everything ended up it’s hard to find a chapter that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor as each one seems vital to the growth of the characters in some way. Your perceptions of all the characters are gonna shift throughout and every chapter whether long or short seems to add an extra layer that’s surely to be picked up on in repeat viewings. There’s just a lot of depth to the characters, their relationships to each other and more importantly their relationships to themselves which sees them finding their place in the world through their interactions with each other.
It’s hard to standout in the crowded coming of age genre but The Worst Person in the World definitely deserves to be held up with the very best the genre has to offer with it’s more mature perspective, attention to detail, strong performances and ending that’s sure to leave a lasting impression. At various times throughout I debated internally the title of the film and it speaks to the strength of the character growth that the title changed meanings to me throughout the films two hour runtime. It might not break any new ground but it’s hard not to be moved by this very relatable story about the worst person in the world.