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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

‘The Worst Person in the World’ refreshes rom-com genre

Renate Reinsve as Julie in “The Worst Person in the World.”

The backdrop is an idyllic summer night, pre-sunset, against the skyline of Oslo, Norway. The wall of piano chords and melodies that open “I Love Music” by the Ahmad Jamal Trio trickle into the mix, slightly crescendoing with the screen’s fade-in. The camera pushes in on a woman in the foreground as she looks longingly in the distance.

In one shot, writer and director Joachim Trier draws in the audience by establishing setting, protagonist, catalyst and mood in a both gorgeous and melancholic fashion.

This is the brilliant opening of Trier’s 2021 rom-com “The Worst Person in the World,” or as known in Norwegian, “Verdens verste menneske.”

Centered on Julie (Renate Reinsve), the film follows her as she embarks on an internal crisis in her late 20s. 

She changes career paths constantly – doctor to psychologist to photographer – and she also experiences changes in her personal life. 

After meeting a famous, older cartoon artist named Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), the two begin a strong relationship and Julie moves in with him. The stability of her romantic life is shaken up when she crashes a party one evening and meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum). 

These newfound relationships and the quest for self-realization in one’s 20s are the centerpieces of the film’s plot, but Trier approaches them uniquely, shedding many cliché tropes of the rom-com genre. 

Trier thus focuses his film’s thematics on photography, art censorship and cancel culture, parental relationships, Freudian theory, parenthood and life and death.

The captivating structure of the film – prologue, conclusion and 12 chapters – makes its many changes easily digestible. These sequences flow seamlessly from one into the next, pushing the story along at a fluid tempo.

Reinsve gives a relatable breakout performance as Julie, perfectly capturing the essence of the quarter-life struggle in the 21st century.

Danielsen Lie is transformative as Aksel, portraying drastic changes in physicality and emotional state by the later half of the film. Nordrum is also a wonderful supporting actor while portraying an apathetic Eivind.

The film is shot beautifully by Kasper Tuxen, who captures 21st century Oslo with balanced modern cinematography, reminiscent of A24 and other independent cinema of the last decade.

The film also features two standout scenes of expertly used CGI, which flawlessly hold time still and bring viewers on a psychedelic journey. 

It is clear that Trier is motivated by American cinema, with several references to pop culture, the films of David Lynch and “The Godfather: Part II.” 

The film has also had an impact in the U.S., with critically-acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson praising the film.

Suffolk University film and media major Sayler Tyson recently saw the film and echoed the praise of the film’s relevance for Gen Z and millennials.

“‘Worst Person in the World’ is essential viewing for anyone moving from one phase of life to the next. We often have to prioritize ourselves when faced with these crossroads and say goodbye to friendships, relationships and comfort with the hopes of learning something along the way,” Tyson said. “Throughout this process, we can’t help but feel like the worst person in the world at times.”

With “The Worst Person in the World,” Trier has completed his “Oslo trilogy” and refreshed the rom-com genre with a relatable and fun quest for one’s mid-20s identity crisis.

Follow Alec on Twitter @alec_maskell.

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About the Contributor
Alec Maskell, Staff Writer | he/him
Alec is a senior media & film major and creative writing minor from Old Lyme, Connecticut. Alec joined The Journal in Fall of 2021, and has focused his writing on film reviews. Alec is intensely passionate about everything relating to film, and he is also a musician, as a guitarist and alto-saxophonist. Alec's career goals are to become a screenwriter/director, and to continue working in the field of journalism.
Follow Alec on Twitter @alec_maskell

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‘The Worst Person in the World’ refreshes rom-com genre