“The Worst Person In The World” takes you on a journey with Julie, a woman who is trying to figure out who she is as a person and what she wants from life. Directed by Joachim Trier, the film is almost meditative in nature as it sets out to explore profound themes of existence and love. It is divided into 12 chapters, with a prologue and an epilogue. Julie ages from a twenty-something to a woman in her thirties over the course of the film. With each choice, Julie attempts to feel closer to the person she wanted to be or the person she felt she was. A stellar performance by Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, and Herbert Nordrum helps “The Worst Person In The World” form an intense connection with the audience.
The film introduces the audience to Julie, a top medical student who feels a growing detachment with her subjects. She soon realized that she was interested in studying the mind and not the body. She believed that surgery was too “concrete,” whereas the mind was not that obvious. She was determined to take control of her life and her choices. She started pursuing psychology. Just when her life was under control, the existential void returned. This time, she concluded that she was fascinated by the visual language and that photography was her calling.
The fear of the growing uneasiness that she had previously felt regarding her career choice was the cause of her indecisiveness. Her new work profile introduced her to the art life in Oslo that she was unaware of. It was at one such party of artists that she met Aksel, a well-acclaimed and somewhat sexist comic artist. The moment Aksel professed his fear of eventually losing Julie due to their age gap, she realized that she was in love with him. While her relationship with Aksel was nurturing, they had a difference in belief when it came to having children. Aksel gravitated towards the idea of being a father, especially when he saw his friends with their children. Whereas, Julie did not feel any maternal instinct and believed that she had more to accomplish before becoming a mother.
Julie wanted to run away from making such life-changing decisions. She wanted to feel closer to the curious child within her who hoped to explore life and the world around her. She simply wanted to enjoy herself without the judgment of being too much or too little. She gatecrashed a wedding. The fact that no one knew her helped her enjoy the night. This is when she met Eivind, a barista with whom she felt a deep connection. This gradually resulted in Julie making tough choices and eventually realizing her desire for life itself.
The film beautifully captured the attraction that Julie and Eivind felt for one another at the party. They promised to not cheat on their partner, but they flirtatiously tested the limit of the definition of cheating. This resulted in an unusual display of affection that was intimate and did not defy the moral codes set by society. Another scene that puts the idea of society and its constructed moral code on hold was when Julie turned on a switch that paused the city of Oslo. Often, we tend to wonder how life would be if we gave a stranger a chance to fall in love, and “The Worst Person in the World” does that. The magical moment in which Julie could express her love for a man other than her partner without the societal intricacies coming in the way, helped her realize how different life could be.
The film also makes it a point to discuss issues that are pertinent to society, particularly when Julie discusses menstruation and the lack of discussion around it with Aksel’s relatives, along with her essay on oral intimacy and #MeToo. One particular scene that visually spoke of what was going on in Julie’s mind was when the city of Oslo was paused, and Julie noticed a couple kissing. She corrected the position of the woman’s hand and winked at the camera, advocating for equality in pleasure. Women’s progress with time was indicated by the difference in the lifestyle of Julie’s ancestors.
A particularly harrowing scene in the film was when Julie was high on mushrooms and imagined her body as that of an older woman with a different body type. Her face remained the same, but her body had aged, and her friends and lovers grabbed hold of her body. She dreamt of her father, who stared at her, unaffected. Her hate for her father is visually represented in the dream, and we later learn that she has cut ties with him.
“The Worst Person In The World” makes you wonder about the effect that time has on a person’s life. Be it through Aksel’s fear of death and the lack of time in his hand, or how Julie met Eivind at a time when his worldview contradicted Julie’s interest. Towards the end of the film, a scene that strikes out was when Julie lost Aksel and the unborn child at the same time. As Aksel always believed that Julie would be a good mother, but as Aksel left the world, so did Julie’s chance at motherhood. The phrase “the worst person in the world” will linger in your mind, and that itself is a sign of brilliance.