Renate Reinsve enchants in Joachim Trier’s distinct take on the romantic dramedy
Renate Reinsve won the Best Actress prize at Cannes for the revelatory, complex performance that anchors this sprawlingly novelistic film by Norwegian auteur Joachim Trier, an emotionally intricate and exhilarating character study of a woman entering her thirties. Amid the seemingly endless possibilities of the modern world, Julie (Reinsve) wavers over artistic passions and professions, the question of motherhood, and relationships with two very different men: a successful comic-book artist (Trier regular Anders Danielsen Lie) and a charismatic barista (Herbert Nordrum). Working with a team of longtime collaborators, Trier and his perennial cowriter Eskil Vogt construct in The Worst Person in the World, the Oscar-nominated third entry in their unofficial Oslo Trilogy, a liberating portrait of self-discovery and a bracingly contemporary spin on the romantic comedy.
There are few genres as well explored as the romantic comedy, whether skewed toward the slapstick, the saccharine, or the subversive. The Worst Person in the World stands out as a fresh take, a character study of a woman on the cusp of her 30s, in a state of reflection on where she’s been, where she’s going, and who she’s with. A woman of talent and ability, but struggling to find direction. Professionally, she veers from studying medicine, to working in a book store, before embracing a pursuit of photography. Personally, she spends much of the film torn between two very different men, accomplished comic-book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), and a smooth barista named Eivind (Herbert Nordrum). Essentially, on a journey of self-discovery, providing us a character study of a modern day woman, seeking a future that fits who she is, as soon as she figures that out.
Director Joachim Trier, teams up once again with regular collaborator, screenwriter Eskil Vogt (Thelma, Reprise, Oslo August 31st, Louder than Bombs). Their smart and incisive writing earned them a nomination for Best Original Screenplay and Best International Film at this year’s Oscars. Around Julie’s predicaments comes an exploration of human nature. The innate, and that which results from societal constraints and expectations. Deftly weaving together actions and consequences, emotional stakes, and resonant humor. Despite being deeply personal, it’s also highly relatable. Capturing a tangible sense of generational angst, as well as the wider feelings of conflict within, especially when it comes to meeting the right person at the wrong time. This grounding in emotional resonance is enhanced by the inclusion of two sequences that veer off into the fantastical, adding whimsy to temper the melancholy. The craft of the film impresses, but what lingers in the mind is the performance of Renate Reinsve. Julie is a flawed human, having issues with fidelity as well as focus, but Reinsve finds that right balance to open her up to an audience. Authentic, relatable, and utterly endearing.
Criterion offer up a package presenting a 2K digital master of the The Worst Person in the World. The image quality is top notch. Consistent in quality, representation of a robust but natural color palette, and detail from start to finish. Originally shot on 35mm, this transfer carries over than cinematic quality very nicely. Extra features are few in number, but of great quality:
- The Making Of The Worst Person In The World: Most “making ofs” are perfunctory affairs, this one is refreshingly not. Just under an hour in length, it’s largely made up of interviews with director Joachim Trier; co-screenwriter Eskil Vogt; actors Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, and Herbert Nordrum; cinematographer Kasper Tuxen; and sound designer Gisle Tveito.The initial focus is on the collaborative relationship between Trier and Vogt, before a dive into the various aspects of the production. Touching on casting, editing, tone and aesthetics of the film, and more
- On-location footage from the creation of the film’s time-freezing sequence: An 18 minute featurette which reveals some of the technical prowess and impressive planning to took to realize the scene
- Deleted scenes: Four excised scenes, running about 11 minutes. Generally reinforcing aspects of Julie’s personality
- PLUS: An essay by critic Sheila O’Malley: Within the liner booklet, which also contains notes on the transfer
- New cover by Bendik Kaltenborn
The Bottom Line
The Worst Person in the World is a marvel of a romantic comedy for the modern age. Grounded in a sobering reality, buoyed by fantastical moments, and driven by an incredible central performance from Reinsve. Undoubtedly one of the best films 2021 had to offer, well presented by Criterion.
The Worst Person in the World is available via Criterion now
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