The heart wants what it wants, but the timing is never right

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | Feb. 10, 2022

The Worst Person in the World
Studio 7
Opens Feb. 18
4 out of 5

We have come to know romantic comedies as narratives involving two hyper-articulated people who find love in bizarre or supernatural circumstances. The truth is none of us will get to intern for a demanding fashion magazine editor or hide in a closet as a 13-year-old and emerge as a fetching thirtysomething. Heck, my friends are not even half as witty or good looking as the ones in Four Weddings and a Funeral (step it up, you guys).

Enter The Worst Person in the World, a painfully true-to-life account of a young woman’s romantic life and how circumstances beyond her control made her the villain of the story. Unlike traditional takes on the genre, this Norwegian film explores the grey areas of love: love dying, conditional love, mercy, negotiation and settling.

To be honest, The Worst Person in the World qualifies as a comedy by the skin of its teeth. At the center of the action is Julie (Renate Reinsve), a charming dilettante who has landed in a comfortable relationship with Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie, 22 July) a graphic novelist in the vein of R. Crumb. Just as the couple hits a rough patch (he wants children, she doesn’t), Julie has one of those once-in-a-lifetime encounters with Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) — one she decides is worth exploring.

The substitution goes as poorly as you would imagine, and any hopes for a happy ending for Julie and Eivind becomes tarnished when an aggressive form of cancer moves on Aksel. He also gets cancelled: there’s no room for counterculture cartoons in the Time’s Up era, let alone Norway.

The Worst Person benefits from director Joachim Trier’s (Louder Than Bombs) ability to create fascinating, contradictory characters with flaws they’re blind to. The otherwise independent, intelligent Julie can’t bring herself to confront her absent father and she dotes on him.

Trier finds in Renate Reinsvea a sympathetic, skilled performer likely to make the transition to Hollywood and be signed to play the love interest of a much older actor. Never mind that, The Worst Person will make you rethink your worst breakups and maybe realize it wasn’t your fault after all (it probably was).