TIFF Review: Joachim Trier’s ‘The Worst Person in the World’ is a rich character study and one of the year’s best films [Grade: A]
In The Worst Person in the World, Joachim Trier delivers one of the year’s most introspective films that works both as a character study and an examination of generational identity.
To label the film as a film about love and romantic relationships would do it a disservice: rather than simply tackling what binds us, and threatens to separate us, from those who we choose as life partners, this is essentially and at its core a film about finding oneself and the choices we make that define us – and those we don’t make and may haunt us for years. Equal parts entertaining and thoughtful, this is one of the year’s highlights and a film worthy of celebration.
Presenting a character that works both on a micro level – showcasing a woman in her 30s who is in constant search for herself, yearning to find out who she wants to be and eager to make choices that represent the best version of herself – and a macro level, demonstrating the dilemmas today’s young men and women go through as they try to shape their identities in a world full of dizzying distractions, moral judgements and increasing pressure to make instant choices that may have long lasting effects, The Worst Person in the World succeeds in creating a narrative that not only engages its audience and breezes through its 127-minute running time, it also will stir conversations and will surely be interpreted differently depending on audiences’ own experiences.
Great cinema is seldom one-dimensional – those films that allows us to see ourselves and dig deeper within, through the lends of their incredibly talented filmmakers, are incredibly rewarding in that they transport us to other lives and stories as well as bridging what we see on screen and our perception of ourselves or those we actually now. As simple and straightforward as Worst Person is, everything on screen feels like a stark reminder of the choices, relationships and connections every one of us made at some point, and how our own self-image, identities and aspirations were at times projected on the bonds we make with those around us.
What makes the film particularly work is its central character, Julie (a fantastic Renate Reinsve, who won the Cannes Best Actress prize for her performance), who in her own words ‘always feels she’s a spectator in her own life, a supporting character in her own story. Constantly moving between choices, lovers and life phases, Julie is elusive, fascinatingly complex and, while seemingly hard to understand, comes off as completely relatable. With an endearing, heartfelt performance by Reinsve, Julie grounds the film and makes every scene believable.
As elusive as Julie herself, Worst Person is a film that escapes categorization: a unique mix of social commentary, character study and a story of the price we pay for the decisions we make, it’s a rich viewing experience with dense themes, varying perspectives and an engaging storyline that leaves room for the audience to self reflect, ponder and debate.
Bottom line: Surely to be remembered as one of the year’s most interesting films, The Worst Person in the World is smart yet accessible cinema that invites audiences to re-examine themselves as they follow a story reminiscent of the everyday choices they’ve made. A superbly acted, meticulously written and wonderfully directed film that is sure to connect with audiences at large.
This review is from the Toronto International Film Festival. NEON will release The Worst Person in the World in the U.S. at a later date.
Photo courtesy of TIFF