Other than the Best Picture Oscar nominee "Drive My Car" from Japan, there have been no other international films this year that have garnered as much buzz as Norway's "The Worst Person in the World." It's up for Best International Feature Film at this year's Academy Awards, and it also scored a surprise-but-well-deserved nomination for Best Original Screenplay. It's a wild and unpredictable romance-coming-of-age-story featuring an unforgettable performance from Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve.
Most "coming-of-age" stories center on teenagers...as if once one becomes an adult, they magically have now "come-of-age" and have it all figured out. The truth is that there are plenty of people that find themselves much later in life, if at all.
Julie (Reinsve) is a thirty-something single woman who has always been an over-achiever and a top student. We learn that she first went into medicine, wanting all of her hard work in school to mean something. But she shifts gears and goes into psychology before spending her student loans to buy a camera and become a photographer. Along the way, she has flings and minor romances with numerous men, but there's something about the elusive comic book author, Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) that finally anchors her down.
Nearly 15 years older than Julie, Aksel is ready to settle down and have children...heck, all of his friends are married with little ones running around. Julie feels the pressure, but not only isn't ready to become a mom, she doesn't quite like the idea that she would make any major life choices according to someone else's (in this case, Aksel's) terms and timeline. She crashes a wedding one night and meets the tall and charismatic Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), but since he is in a relationship too, they flirt and push the boundaries of what it means to have NOT cheated, but they remain on each other's minds.
The title, "The Worst Person in the World," implies that Julie is a bad individual, or some kind of villain. She is not. The title more closely encompasses the self-doubt and guilt that a person might feel when they are not able to adhere to the ideals of others around them, even if they are "in love" with that person. Timing is everything, and the reason why some relationships spark and others fizzle all have to do with where a person is in that moment. For Julie, she passes by several opportunities to live a life that someone else may deem "ideal," but for her, just aren't the versions of her life that she's ready to take on. This doesn't make her the worst person in the world, it actually makes her quite common.
These common feelings are what pulls the audience in to root for Julie, and Reinsve's vulnerable, powerful portrayal finishes the job.
The film has lighter moments but feels more like a drama than a "rom-com." It also plays a bit looser than American audiences might be ready for when it comes to sex, where nudity and adult conversation aren't nearly as taboo or a big deal. Now "Oscar-nominated Screenwriter" Joachim Trier creates a believable are relatable world and never manipulates the audience into feeling any which way.
Julie may think she is "The Worst Person in the World," but spending time with her, it can be confirmed that she's just like many of us...trying to find herself in a world full of love and loss, and admirably doing so on her own terms.
Genre: Foreign, Comedy, Drama, Romance.
Run Time: 1 hour 56 minutes.
Starring: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum, Maria Grazia Di Meo.
Co-Written and Directed by Joachim Trier ("Thelma," "Louder Than Bombs").
"The Worst Person in the World" opens in the Detroit area in select theaters on Friday, February 18th, 2022.
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