Film review: The Worst Person in the World

Coming to terms with yourself

worstperson
Official movie poster for The Worst Person in the World, now playing in U.S. movie theaters.

JOHN SMISTAD
Olympia, Wash.

I had not seen a movie in a theater in a year and a half. Thanks again, C-19.

So, it was a most welcome moment indeed this past weekend at The Grand Cinema in Tacoma, Wash. It was there that, finally and at long last, I once again plopped my patootie on that customary cushioned push-down seat in preparation of eyeballing the much-ballyhooed and Oscar-nominated Norwegian film The Worst Person in the World (Verdens verste menneske).

Good news on two fronts: The silver screen has not lost its luminous luster. And the movie projected onto it on this milestone afternoon was well worth the price of admission (and the mega-missed microbrews and popcorn, to boot).

This is a masterpiece in filmmaking. An insta-classic. A benchmark standard to which all future romantic dramas will be compared.

Yes. It is that damn good.

Renate Reinsve staggers as Julie, a young woman struggling to navigate her life’s path, as she wrestles relentlessly with getting a grip on who she is, and not what the world has mandated she should be. We watch as she transforms before our eyes, both spiritually and physically. We meet Julie as a wide-eyed, almost innocent sprite on the precipice of turning 30. Over the next four years, an emotional, often volatile, rollercoaster ride sees her change, including a face that has become reflective of a world-weary soul. This is a girl all grown up now, able to articulate opinions, feelings, and pent-up anger she was incapable of expressing in a previous incarnation. It is a stunning transformation, equal parts amusing, jarring, heartbreaking and, ultimately, inspiring.

Throughout Julie’s remarkable journey of self-discovery, director and co-writer Joachim Trier (Louder Than Bombs, Thelma) treats us to striking sequences of a still-life coffeeshop rendezvous, a wild, woolly, and grotesquely animated “’shroom trip” plus a strangely erotic encounter in which a couple push the limits of “cheating” on their personal partners to promiscuous precariousness. And that’s barely scratching the surface of the bizarro cum resonate world Trier summons for his audience to explore and contemplate, while at the same time not necessarily delivering any definitive, potentially trite, conclusions along the way.

And that’s okay.

When a contentious TV interview scene in The Worst Person in the World erupts into blunt and ugly discourse, art is raucously revealed as what it is supposed to be. To wit, neither uniformly clear-cut, patently perceived nor unanimously socially acceptable. Rather, to create is, by inherent design, to challenge, to push us out of our zoned-out zones of comfort. Moreover, to cause us to reflect, reconsider and … gasp … to actually think.

What these final moments of The Worst Person in the World may or may not signify is ultimately and entirely up to you to determine on your own. I intended to share my thoughts here. I’ve decided that would be unfair to those who have yet to experience this magically captivating and uniquely brilliant story of one human being’s search for purpose, enlightenment, and contentment.

So, I’ll conclude with one request.

Hell, call it a plea.

Don’t ever, ever, allow others to determine who you are.

To do this is to ignore, to willingly reject, that which makes you special. Remarkable. Wonderful.

For denial of one’s true self is, for all time, among the absolute

This article originally appeared in the March 18, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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John Smistad

John Smistad is a published author of short stories, poems, essays, and movie reviews. He lives and loves with his family and cat in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. He is the fiercely proud son of a native Norwegian dad. (He loves his mom, too.) You can follow him as on his blog at thequickflickcritic.blogspot.com.

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