It's not often when a Norwegian film becomes a critical darling, but people have been falling over themselves praising The Worst Person in the World – some have called it the best film of 2021 – so certainly, as a Norwegian-American, my interest was piqued. And I enjoyed Trier's first feature Reprise, so if anybody was predisposed to go wild for The Worst Person, it would be me, right?
Well, surprise: I found the film to be simply good, not great.
Renate Reinsve stars as Julie, a young Oslo woman who's a bit of a lost soul, but only mildly: after dabbling in psychology and photography, she eventually decides to be a writer. The Worst Person unfolds book-like, across several distinct chapters (including chapter titles), as we follow Julie through the ups and downs of her various relationships. This is very much a slice of life movie. As with Reprise, Trier seems fascinated with "Norway fame" – that is, his stories involve Norwegians who pursue the arts but can only go as far as they can in a nation of five million people – so the primary relationship that The Worst Person explores is between Julie, whose work gets published in small Norwegian outlets, and her boyfriend Aksel (physician-turned-actor Anders Danielsen Lie, a Trier regular), a cartoonist who has hit peak Norway fame when a lousy animated film has been adapted from his comics.
Again, critics have been raving over Reinsve's performance here, but frankly I found her rather blank. Lie, with his inherently tragic face, fares much better, especially towards the end of the film.
The Worst Person in the World is filled with lovely little human details and the occasional bit of visual whimsy. You may well find the film (and Reinsve) very moving. But I just thought it was fine, not much more than that. And I realize that mine is a quintessentially Norwegian response.