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MOVIES (GFF 2022): The Worst Person in the World - Review

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Joachim Trier’s visual style is unmatched; a work of art that the director has carried over from films like Thelma and Reprise, beautiful deconstructions of character. Here the film focuses on a late 30s disaster of a human being Julie (Renate Reinsve) who we first meet at university in her 20s, navigating both her career and personal life through university whilst she works at a bookstore. On that pathway, she eventually falls in love with an older comic book creator named Askel (Anders Danielsen Lie) - but finds herself at odds with him for being in a different place in life - with all the struggles of that relationship coming to the forefront as one would expect from a big age gap. He wants a family - which only becomes more apparent when Julie sees him with his other relatives - all with kids of their own to make a baby, but she’s not ready yet. As with Licorice Pizza the age gap in this relationship is intentional here and Trier uses it with a degree of self-awareness rather than glamourizing it. The film feels part of a mini-new wave commentary on quarter life crises backended by that and The Souvenir duology, with Tick, Tick... Boom! thrown in this genre as well for good measure - the protagonists' rapid transformation in their life in such a short space of tiime puts them against almost a ticking clock.

And what follows is a spirited quest for agency and identity, wonderfully acted. As is the nature with most film Twitter favourites a lot of the stills from this movie were shared online before the film even had its festival premiere in the UK, its release date long behind that of the US - making it impossible to avoid heavy spoilers, which may have led to this movie having even more of an effect going in blind, but even knowing where it’s headed means that you get a real tour de force of an emotional rollercoaster - back-ended by a journey of powerful self-discovery.

Few Hollywood movies spend time with the mid to late 30s phase of life and fewer still are led by a female lead that has a complex and nuanced personality that isn’t a one dimensional stereotype- but The Worst Person in the World has that - divided into twelve chapters, an epilogue and a prologue - it tells a story akin to Asako I & II, which it’d make a great double pairing with, backed by the raw power of a director who brings his authentic vision to the table. The heavy lifting in what makes this film as good as it is however is beyond that of just Trier alone - Renate Reinsve puts in arguably the greatest lead performance of the previous year and should have been nominated for an Oscar.

The effortless charisma that she has radiates in spades and she’s able to capture believable chemistry with her two main love interests - you can instantly see not only why she would fall for them, but they would fall for her - the spark ignites both times and you find yourself wanting both relationships to succeed knowing full well they probably won’t. Part of this reason is that Trier is able to give not just his protagonist but also every major character a story to tell, a life of their own.

The soundtrack is as skilfully chosen as any other Trier movie - comparable in its needle drops to that of Joy Division in Reprise. The cinematography provided by DOP Kasper Tuxen (Riders of Justice + Beginners) is jaw-droppingly perfect - the scenes of seduction between Renate Reinsve + Herbert Nordrum is magnetic and powerfully intimate - as is the oft-shared shot of Reinsve running through the street with time frozen around her, echoing that of the Life on Mars scene in Licorice Pizza. There is a reason after all, the stills from this movie are so popular - the dialogue reflects on its characters and brings out the ugly side of everyone, reminding us at our core that the characters at the heart of the story are so perfectly human, capturing the messy emotions that come with it whilst also reminding us that it's okay if we haven't figured out who we are yet - that will come in time.

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