Anyone who isn't confused really doesn't understand the situation.
Worst Person In The World, by Joachim Trier.
My rating: 5/5.
Out Of Place
The film opens on the main character, a gorgeous backdrop, and a bit of casual smoking. Julie looks troubled and perhaps a bit bored. Does she regret something, or someone?
It's clear that she feels out of place. She's at a party with a partner more successful than her, surrounded by high-achieving individuals, yet she's still trying to figure herself out. She dreads the question "what do you do for work." Her qualms about life are seen as indecision, something to be avoided.
Later on, she might react to this image of indecision that others project on her, but Joachim Trier waits to show us. Can she stick with a major? Can she hold a steady job? Will she get married, or flake again? Will she want kids, or won't she?
Silent judgements from others are common in this film, not too different from real life. Death by a thousand cuts. The movie assumes the audience is intelligent and leaves it up to the viewer to discern what is right and wrong, and how reliable the character's judgements are.
Into The Light
A huge part of what makes this movie special is context. We aren't given every detail about Julie's experience up to this point, but the opening sequence is excellent. We get to see the evolution of Julie from the beginning of college to now: about to turn thirty, working at a bookstore, in a healthy relationship. We aren't left in the dark on her life prior to our viewing. The result is that Julie is relatable, not mysterious. She's just like the viewer, interacting with the world and wrestling with the results.
Very early on, the viewer can tell that Julie is on the eve of change. Discomfort tends to propel people into action, but sometimes people regret their actions. This virtuous cycle of regret hits home hard.
Joachim Trier's films aren't prescriptive. They don't provide neat endings that tie up every loose end, they expose reality. Despite this, I leave every one of these films feeling more excited about life than I was when I walked in.
Sight And Sound
In terms of "technical review", the entire film is stunning. The cinematography is masterful, the situations are realistic, the writing (even after being translated into English) is fantastic. The backdrop of Oslo and surrounding destinations in the film are beautiful, the set design is fantastic, and the overall aesthetics of the film enhance it quite a bit.
Trier has good music taste: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Harry Nilsson, Christopher Cross, Todd Rundgren.
The narration is excellent and adds a lot to the film. Often, narration can really take you out of the setting. Not the case here.
Back to the meat of the film. Throughout the film, Julie's doubts about her own path are palpable, and her fear of follow-through permeates the film's atmosphere. This is a film about discovery, but also about self-doubt.
Sometimes, the scenes are a bit too relatable. It feels as though Joachim Trier or his co-writer Eskil Vogt experienced some of these scenes firsthand, despite writing from the female perspective. The film is effortlessly laced with hilarious diversions, a welcome respite from some of the heavy portions. If you watch it, expect wild reindeer, mushroom trips, and esoteric rituals.
In the later chapters, a quantum shift occurs and the viewer's expectations of the film's central conflict are subverted. What I expected to see in the last forty minutes of the film were nowhere near close to what actually occurred.
Like many of Trier's films, the movie is bittersweet but life-affirming. I think the ending left me satisfied while avoiding the trope of "happily ever after". There were still loose ends, and there was still ambiguity abound.
Great Films v. Good Films
A good film sticks with you, a great film induces you to question how you spend your time and your life. After watching this film, I did the latter.