2022 | rated R | starring Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum | directed by Joachim Trier | 2 hrs 8 mins | In Norwegian with English Subtitles |

As she approaches the age of 30, Julie (Renate Reinsve), a spontaneous, indecisive, romantic woman in Oslo, Norway, starts to second guess her romance with Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a career-minded comic book artist several years her senior, when she meets the free-spirited Elvind (Herbert Nordrum) at a party. Being torn between two men is only part of her journey of self discovery the career-switching woman makes over the course of a few years.

Joachim Trier (Thelma)’s The Worst Person in the World is going to play for American audiences – it did for me anyway – like the smarter, more thoughtful version of a New York Millennial mumblecore film. You know the kind. Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture and Girls, Jenny Slate’s Obvious Child, the Noah Baumbach universe. Disaffected, aimless millennials struggling to find their voice and place in the world. They go to parties, clubs, coffee shops, change their majors, have sex, get boyfriends and cheat on those boyfriends under the guise of self discovery. I generally hate this kind of movie and as Worst steps through each of these tropes I both loathed it and have to admit it was doing the exploration better than most. All of these movies have a Meet at a Party scene, but Worst’s lengthy early film set piece where Julie and Elvind engage in a game of one-upsmanship to see how non-sexually intimate they can be (including watching each other on the toilet) without cheating is clever and different. In all of these movies, it’s the miserable people who don’t want to be at the party who end up finding love.

Our heroine Julie isn’t the worst person in the world, but she isn’t a particularly good one either. Her journey is full of mistakes and broken hearts in which she puts herself above everything else. Yet the film is plumbs through the complexities of human relationships where people can make each other happy and come at the exact wrong time in their lives. Where people can love each other while wanting opposing things for themselves, like Julie’s struggle with not wanting children while the men in her life do. Another set piece where Julie runs to Elvind’s side through a city where time has stopped is like something out of a Jean-Pierre-Jeunet film, whimsical and romantic. It’s cinematic sequences like this that elevate the film above the usual stagey mumblecore crowd.

I liked The Worst Person in the World a lot, which really says something because I hate this kind of movie. There is a self-indulgent, overly-reflexive tone to stories of young women bumbling through jobs and relationships that I cannot connect with and the movies don’t want me to. Presenting their mistakes as a profound search for meaning in the world instead of a comic series of screwups feels deeply pretentious. If these characters were more self aware, these movies would be more like The Lady Eve or The Palm Beach Story. Yet, Worst Person is so human, so smartly written and so cinematic that it climbs above that and produces something with a lasting impact.