The most beautiful part about life is how not beautiful it is. Like jazz, we’re constantly maneuvering from one idea to the next. This idea doesn’t work? Oh well, go to the next one. This one isn’t working either? Try THIS one. It’s an endless cycle of experimentation from beginning to end. Ideas, relationships, and growth are somehow not mutually exclusive but are at the same time. I say this because capturing these feelings (that span over years at a time) into a singular medium is monstrously difficult. Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World captures this much in the same vein as Benjamin Franklin’s key on the kite.
The Worst Person in the World encompasses a point in Julie’s (Renate Reinsve) life where she’s in her late 20’s, at medical school, and looking to experiment. Julie’s biggest fear is complacency – so she moves away from medical school to pursue psychology. Then, moves away from psychology to pursue photography. All while jumping from one fling to another. That is, until she lands with a 40 year old comic book artist, Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie). At this point, Julie stagnates with her pursuit of photography and Aksel.
At a technical level, The Worst Person in the World utilizes every creative tool that is practically available to it. The sequences that are done in this film are (in the least hyperbolic way I can say it) magical. From something so simple as a psychedelic trip to a fantasy of another lover, the crew put their all into the creative process. Additionally, the film is segmented into chapters (as well as a prologue and an epilogue) to divvy up each thought as to not create a sensory overload. On paper, dividing the movie into chapters shouldn’t work like it did, but with the eccentric ebbs and flows this movie funnels though, it makes it way more digestible. The plot of the movie itself is simple, but the technical additions elevates it significantly.
Renate Reinsve delivers an amazing performance as Julie. Julie feels like a living, breathing person and every mistake she makes – while being mostly inconsequential – had weight. Then once the mistakes begin to accumulate, Julie begins to grapple with the consequences of her actions. Which isn’t to say she did anything bad, but something that seemed to have served her in the short term didn’t pan out in the long term. Then when you get to chapter 12 – you and Julie – are left emotional messes. But, just like jazz, you move onto the next thing until you strike the right balance.
Which leads to what I consider the magnum opus of this movie – balance. Joachim Trier and the rest of the cast and crew make a cinematic experience filled to the brim with charm, sadness, happiness, inventiveness, and practicality. However, at no point did any of these experiences overwhelm at any given time. The script was painstakingly engineered to be able to take you on a fulfilling journey. Given the 128 minute runtime, it’s an impressive feat.
By the time the credits roll, you are now in the shoes of a completely different Julie. The most cathartic part is that she is driven by passion, not impulse. Although this is the end of the movie, Julie lives on, continuing to experiment and grow. Photography doesn’t work? Onto something else. It’s never ending. But that isn’t a bad thing. We’ll move on from our current trials and tribulations just like Julie did. The Worst Person in the World is a giant step for cinematic experimentation, giving us one of the best movies of recent memory. – Jacob Mauceri
The Worst Person in the World Releases in Theaters February 4th, 2022. For more Sundance 2022 coverage, keep an eye on our Twitter page and this site!