The Worst Person in the World is a romantic comedy for those who hate romantic comedies. It’s the third in a loose Oslo trilogy from Joachim Trier, three films linked by the city, not by story or characters. The film was written for Renate Reive by Trier because he thought she was a great actress who simply wasn’t getting the breaks she deserved in the Norwegian film industry. It’s very much “a star is born” type of performance, but Reinsve was shamefully snubbed for a nomination at the Oscars.
Reinsve plays Julie, a medical student who is pushing 30 and going out with an older comic book artist, Aksel Willman (Anders Danielsen Lie). Their relationship is going along OK, no horrible friction, but he starts floating the idea of having a kid. She is uncertain, but not against the idea per se. But then she crashes a wedding after leaving her boyfriend’s publishing event and meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum). There is instant chemistry, but they spend the night together getting drunk and watching each other pee. The two part ways, just exchanging first names, but of course they run into each other again…
The film is told in 12 chapters covering the space of around four years of Julie’s life. One of the film’s biggest laughs is the title of one of the chapters: “Oral sex in the age of #MeToo.” Aksel quite perfectly comments on the essay that the chapter is named after: “I don’t agree with everything, but it’s very well written.” It’s an incredibly relatable film for viewers, who will see aspects of themselves in all of the characters.
The writing from Trier and Eskil Vogt is razor-sharp, resulting in a perfect balancing act of comedy and drama, with some doses of fantasy when the scene calls for it. There is a great moment where Oslo stands still for Julie to run through it. The film’s two highlights are the break-up with Aksel and the sequence where she takes magic mushrooms with Eivind, which has the best “trip” sequence in a while—but the aftermath of the trip is just as fantastic.
This film is the most refreshing take on romantic comedies in decades. It understands what makes those films work, but takes a left turn at every opportunity to make it fresh and constantly surprising. Trier talked a little about how Harry Nilsson’s ’70s songs were a major source of inspiration, and he often wrote scenes in song form. Naturally, thee soundtrack includes two of Nilsson’s songs, but also features excellent use of Todd Rundgren, and even Art Garfunkel’s cover of “Waters Of March,” which bookends the film perfectly.
At the end of the day, The Worst Person in the World is a film about submitting to the chaos of life, but realizing things are going to turn out OK(ish)—or at least you will come to terms with your fate. Renate Reive deserved all the prizes this awards season, but while she may not have gotten everything, the point of the film was to show the world what she was capable of. To think of the loss we almost had, because she was on the verge of giving up on acting to pursue a life in carpentry when she got the script.
The film is streaming on MUBI, but for those who are not subscribers or want a physical media version of the film, it has also been released on Blu-Ray. The extras include a Q&A with Reinsve, a behind the scenes featurette, and a stills gallery of her boyfriend’s comic book. The Blu-Ray release also includes six exclusive art cards.