This is why you go to a film festival. Sure, the buzz for The Worst Person in the World was strong out of the Cannes Film Festival, but seeing is believing. Not only is this movie a revelatory experience, it’s the cream of the 2021 crop so far. I fell in love with it and you will too, I can all but assure you of that. This is a gloriously funny, moving, sexy, and smart romantic dramedy that subverts all expectations. Occasionally quickly, but packing a major wallop by the end, it’s a full meal. Nothing at the Toronto International Film Festival so far has come close to matching it. Frankly, I was left stunned.
The Worst Person in the World instantly stands among the best romantic comedies of this recent age. At the same time, even referring to it as one is a disservice, as this is doing something very different. We haven’t seen this protagonist displayed in this manner on screen yet. Meeting her here, you’ll wonder how we went this long without it.
Set during a four year period and told in twelve chapters (plus a prologue and epilogue), this is the story of a piece of a woman’s life. When we meet Julie (Renate Reinsve), she’s in the midst of changing her major in college. You quickly get the sense that she’s also been prone to decisions like this. Catching the eye of an older comic book artist named Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a relationship almost accidentally blooms. Still, Julie navigates the situation and the troubles of her life with a single minded determination to be her own woman.
Whether it’s her changing pursuits or love life, Julie follows her own evolving code. That’s put to the test when she encounters Elvind (Herbert Nordrum) at a wedding she’s crashed. Tempted to leave Aksel, she still pays no mind to others. That won’t last forever, though, especially as she begins comparing Aksel to Elvind. Where she ends up at the end of this is a far cry from where she started, and that evolution will be incredibly familiar to many audience members.
Renate Reinsve is an absolute revelation. Her performance is one of the year’s best and more than worthy of a Best Actress nomination. It may prove a little too quirky for voters, but the work is so good, you won’t be able to ignore her. Reinsve makes Julie complex and hard to love, but easy to root for. Both Anders Danielsen Lie and Herbert Nordrum give layers to the men in Reinsve’s life, making it impossible to choose between them. That’s just one more reason why The Worst Person in the World works so very well.
Filmmaker Joachim Trier throws a lot at you. Along with co-writer Eskil Vogt, Trier has all manner of rom-com moments toyed with here. Where else will you see an amazing party meet cute, but also a mushroom trip that involves a bloody protest. Trier’s direction takes it all seriously, lending it an extra air of care. Trier and Vogt, along with Reinsve, also just make Julie one of the best characters in some time. You care about her. You really care.
The Worst Person in the World will blow you away. It’s the best of TIFF so far, and even more so than that, it’s the best film of 2021, to date. It’s a special relationship that Trier will thrust you into with Reinsve. Their creation is utterly compelling and hypnotic, even when she is making poor choices. Watching those choices run their course is the experience of the year. Just take it from me and make it your business to see this one, whether at TIFF or later on this year. It’s absolutely brilliant.