The year 2021 saw Norwegian Actress Renate Reinsve win the Cannes Film Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the character ‘Julie’ in Joachim Trier’s latest. TheWorst Person in the World follows the journey of a young woman in Norway, as she matures through the weight of her own ambitions, and a multitude of life’s experiences. Themes of love and longing circumvent the trajectory of the movie’s narrative, but there’s far more to it than what appears on the surface.
The Plot of The worst person in the world
Youth is an often discussed subject, probably because it is more striking as a memory, as compared to the fleeting moments of its occurring. As the story begins, we perceive Julie as this intelligent lady who likes to challenge herself to do things that appear difficult to achieve. Only if we stick through, we realize that just because she’s smart, does not mean that she has it all figured. The transitions are rapid and make the story increasingly easy to follow; one can’t help but realize that it also suggests a very fast-paced world. Editing the scenes one after another to tell the story in a montage-like fashion, makes it effective for viewers with a lower attention span. It feels consciously done, as Julie herself is someone who gets easily distracted by technology.
If something is more intricately expressive of Julie herself, it is her relationships with those around her. Aksel is a highly accomplished comic book artist, and probably the first person that Julie loves. Although they have a high age difference, we see that they share a special bond unlike any other. In all likelihood, they face what most couples face as they mature; differences. Adding to this Julie’s increasing consciousness of her stature, as compared to that of Aksel, she meets Eivind whom she later falls for.
… and it’s nuances
Aksel tells Julie that she would regret leaving him, as they finally separate. The important point to note here is that he does not say this from a perspective of insecurity, or bitterness. He speaks of it purely because he has led a longer life, and that’s what he truly means. Julie accepts. She also admits that someday they might find their way back to each other. She means that as well. We know this because the narrative voice of the lady in the background tells us so. Literally.
Theme’s of undiluted Feminism
The Worst Person in the World at no point feels like a feminist movie made by a male director, as is the problem with most feminist movies made by male directors. This is so purely because Joachim Trier shows innate potential to empathize, relate to, and uphold the feminine spirit. From the grotesque depiction of menstrual blood, feminine sexual urges, obscure strata of failed relationships, massive human insecurity, to the unwillingness to jump into maternal instincts or to strive for a happily ever after, everything has been addressed.
In short, portraying Julie, in the same way, a young, reckless, and a little insensitive boy her age would have been portrayed in any other movie. To be able to embody both the good and bad and not demonstrate selective excellence on the feminine aspect of being. Even Greta Gerwig movies like Ladybird or Little Women seem forced in this regard, however, the sternest eye would not find faults with this aspect of The Worst Person in the World.
Losing a loved one…
There exist hundreds of movies like Marriage Story, or La La Land that showcase excellence in depicting separation, but none too many that deal with the subject of the death of an ex-lover. Unlike goodbyes, death is cold, harsh, and absolute; a point of no return. The Worst Person in the World introduces mature themes, as Aksel battles with cancer and Julie finds the strength to support him through it.
As viewers, we cannot help but imagine Julie never leaving him be, or that they would be together at least in his last days, but the plot unfolds in a way of its own. Aksel in spite of his inherently ambitious nature is more reflective of the past, as he believes that he has nothing to look forward to. From this point onward, Julie is pretty much repulsive and annoying to witness as she neither demonstrates maturity in leading her own life well nor helping Aksel depart with some kind of peace or happiness. This is probably intentional. Julie is not perfect, after all. Nobody is.
Will The Worst Person in the World Receive an Oscar?
The Academy Award although prestigious guides itself by a set of logic and reasoning depending upon factors it deems fit. If we were to assess the previous trends for the Oscar in The Foreign-Language Category the Award has been going to movies like Another Round (2020/21), Parasite (2019), Roma (2018), Ida (2014). Something that is common between all these movies is Cinematic brilliance, a coherent theme, relevance to places of their origin, and an innate sense of authenticity.
Speaking of Cinematic brilliance, The Worst Person in the World is full of it. Probably much more than Another Round, if we were comparing (which we shouldn’t). It is evident in scenes where Julie fantasizes about uniting with Eivind, as the whole of the world stands still while she practically jazzes her way to him; through the streets of Norway of course. The theme, authenticity, and Norwegian originality are abundant enough to not deprive the movie of the Award.
So, is it a yes or a no?
Although the movie befits most of the Award-winning parameters, it is hard to predict whether a primarily female-led film shall win the Award, especially when the movie is not dealing with themes of rape or poverty or any other brutal factors. Also, previous winners of the Award have shown the tendency to portray absolute endings irrespective of whether they are good or bad, happy or sad. The Worst Person in the World leaves us on a spiraling note, as Julie is young and maturing in spite of the grief and hardships, and there could be so much happening in her life from that point onward. We predict that it’s a hard no, especially when the movie is competing with other strong contenders like Drive My Car, or even Titane. Although, we at Cinema Monogatari would not mind being proved wrong. Not for this movie after all.
The Worst Person in the World, and the appropriateness of its Title
Is Julie really the worst person in the world? Julie is pretty much like most people in the world. If she has any flaw, it probably lies in the fact that she does not even try to be different. She isn’t the worst, not to the viewers at least. What does strike though is that Aksel is practically dead, and he spent even the last of his days loving and wishing the best for Julie. If we were in his place, she would definitely be the worst. But to Aksel, she wasn’t. Quite a consciously crafted dilemma, really!