An intimate image of a young man and woman, both White, breathing in each other’s cigarette smoke. The man has fair hair and is wearing a black suit. The woman has mousy brown hair and is resting her hand on his shoulder.
Credit: The New Yorker

Glasgow Film Festival 2022: The Worst Person in the World

By Jodie Leith

Jodie recounts the poignant experience of attending the UK premiere of this Norwegian romantic drama, and praises its Fleabag-like striking of a balance between cutting humour and devastating poignancy.

Watching The Worst Person in the World at Glasgow Film Festival was, to say the very least, a highly emotional experience. The modern rom-com drama, and final film in director Joachim Trier’s “Oslo Trilogy”, follows Julie (Renate Reinsve), an unsettled twenty-something who navigates a complicated love life and wrestles with disorientated aspirations. The plot is deceptively unassuming, yet delve deeper and it speaks to every existential crisis you’ve likely had (and are yet to have), while skilfully subverting tropes from the genre.

Adulthood is a world in which Julie is judged almost immediately on her career, success, and relationships. Trier’s film is laced with equally uncomfortable and hilarious social encounters which resonate largely with those approaching their mid-twenties and thirties – especially women – as tense questionings surrounding career ambitions and the possibility of children are smuggled into conversation by strangers.

There are many poignant and relatable moments offered, but arguably the most powerful comes as Julie opens up to her partner Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), an acclaimed comic artist who’s fifteen years her senior, after encountering the magnetic Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) while gate-crashing a party. Here, in a career-defining role, Reinsve delivers the most crushing line of the film: “I feel like a spectator in my own life. Like I’m playing a supporting role in my own life”. It’s a devastating moment made all-too real by masterful writing, directing, and acting. The revelation speaks to those in the audience who feel caught in a similar limbo, as Julie works in a bookstore for years post-graduation, searching for her own future. The Worst Person in the World is, at its heart, a coming of age for twenty-somethings, perfectly encapsulating the crossroads of life post-university.

After two hours of trying to avoid silences and cover up my sobs with the utterly brilliant soundtrack, the central love interests – Danielsen Lie and Nordrum – joined the GFT audience for a Q&A after the showing. As the house lights turned on to reveal the phenomenal actors, I furiously wiped away tears and swapped my wet face mask for a more dignified, fresh one, switching to journo mode in a slightly depressing/impressive transformation á la Emma Thompson post-Joni Mitchell listening session in Love Actually.

Danielsen Lie and Nordrum are clearly in disbelief at the film’s worldwide popularity, chuckling at their 10-minute-long applause at Cannes (classic Cannes behaviour) and marvelling at the film’s two Oscar nominations (not enough in my opinion). Danielsen Lie remarks that “Norwegian language doesn’t tend to travel that far, but [the film] touched on something that feels universal and you can identify with”. He’s wholly correct. The Worst Person in the World has single-handedly revived a dying Hollywoodised genre with honesty, warmth, and talent. It’s a stunning examination of humanity in a time when the world feels increasingly distant and I’m hopeful for a future in which international films are treated with the respect and support of American (and English) films.

I left the cinema thinking that The Worst Person in the World is the best film I have ever seen. Maybe it’s because the end of university is looming and I found it highly relatable. Maybe in ten years’ time I’ll scoff at that statement. But right here and now, I stand by it.

You’d be a fool to miss it.

The Worst Person in the World is released in UK and Irish cinemas from March 25.


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