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CANNES FESTIVAL REVIEW: “The Worst Person In The World”

This film is competing for the Palme D'Or
Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie and Maria Grazia Di Meo  
Directed by Joachim Trier

CANNES, France – “The Worst Person In The World” (“Verdens Verste Menneske” in the original Norwegian) directed by Joachim Trier and starring the architecturally-perfect Renate Reinsve, can be a little disconcerting at times. The story of a young thirtysomething who zigs and zags between professional aspirations, motherhood and men, is as entertaining as it can feel glossy and perfect (and not a stranger to clichés).

Could this parade of well-filmed snapshots summarizing Julie’s adult life, the voice-over and the retelling of her sentimental experiences, point to an affected irony? Are we the future product of our destiny? How crucial is the will in today’s unpredictable world?

This portrait of a young woman, saddled with the burdens of a normal youth (indecisiveness and self-doubt), is at first predictable, but will turn out to be more subtle, a few clichés notwithstanding, as the film goes on.

The film is divided into twelve chapters, it also has a prologue and an epilogue. The voice-over lets us in on the characters thinking but its efficacy is in question.

Julie (Reinsve) attends medical school but, out of dissatisfaction, she will switch majors, opting to study psychology instead, before moving to photography, with the support of her mother, astonished, but also understanding.

Two different romantic relationships bookend the story.

The first one is with Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a recognized, creative, and also very dull, older comic book author (Danielsen Lie previously appeared in “Oslo, August 31” by Trier); the second relationship is with a sweet and protective man who works as waiter in a coffee shop and who ultimately leaves his girlfriend for her.

With his film, Trier dutifully  appears to check all the boxes of a credible filmmaker in the 21st century’s checklist: perfect photography (top-notch filmmaking technology is available now), a great setting (a bench with a view, an aging house in the country), a statuesque alpha, male characters who are either vulgar intellectuals with an unfortunate tendency to get terminal diseases or complete simpletons, Freudian references for scenes of filial strife and explicit mentions of the MeToo movement, such as happens when aforementioned comic book author gives a TV interview. I won’t pretend that this bothered me, because the film, eye-candy, was pleasurable to watch. But one does notice the special care to detail, even if it was unintentional (but it never completely is, is it? We are a product of our times, it just is).

With its contemplation on desire and life, of Julie as wavering symbol of contemporary youth with whom Trier explores the gap between generations (the dynamic between her mother, a distant father), between those like her (peers who have children and those who don’t), “The Worse Person In the World” brings something to the table.

Trier, 46, has five films to his credit as director; his 2015 film “Louder than Bombs” was at the Cannes Festival that year.