The Worst Person in the World (Review)

Though the title is purposefully ironic, reflecting back on its protagonist and their faux view of themselves (as a symbol for how we are all unreliable narrators of our own lives), it is indicative of how far this film stretches. The knowing overstatement is in keeping with the approach of the film, a work that is trying so hard to be universal, to be of the moment and to be resonant. It tries very, very hard and, in doing so, falls short.

At the start, the film sells itself as episodic: 12 chapters with an intro and an epilogue. Through this structure, it chronicles some time in the life of our main character, as she negotiates relationships and herself. It is all character study but the propulsion of episodic narratives takes over the focus. The film, instead, feels like a sequence of attempts to make points about a variety of modern phenomena, occasionally through overt (though appealing) visuals but usually through dialogue. A lot of the film is characters using conversation as an excuse to very bluntly address issues, or to have big talk.

A late film dialogue, brought about through one of the film’s many large contrivances, typifies this. A major character is suffering, seriously so. It has made them reflective and so they launch into an extended speech about their ideology, their cemented view of the world. It dances around ‘the times they are a changing’ stuff, vague technophobia also; only, it thinks by including lines that make reference to this, pointed self-awareness, that makes it okay. This scene also comes after the character has hugely embarrassed themselves in a public setting, in another contrived scene, which is just thrown in to address another issue and is handled really oddly. The character comes out of this terribly but the film does so little with it, an example of how it likes to prod at things but not engage with things. An indulgent scene about a character’s growing obsession with a specific culture is similarly oddly depicted, and edges into discomfort due to the distanced ironicism that the film persistently adopts.

Intrusive narration is also an issue, and is part of the film’s obsession with universality and relevance. Our characters are talked over at points, a dry and somewhat affectless voice (a staple of the ironic tone) floridly details what we can just frequently see, or infer. Often, it’s just overkill, a show of the film not trusting performances. At other points, it is just unnecessary or a touch annoying. On a few occasions it gleans something, but the hit rate is incredibly low.

There is merit here, though. The central performance is disarming and incredibly inviting: Renate Reinsve brings an energy and interest that doesn’t seem to be on the page, helping the film greatly. It is also a beautiful film, in a way that is additive. The lens is sharp, finding clever ways to beautify the everyday while never robbing it of its prosaic reality. It just feels very contemporary, in aesthetic, all very well done. Our camera moves with purpose, but doesn’t distract, and the visual language is consistently strong.

There are good moments, too. As is often the case with these meandering tales, some of the vignettes really work and really hit on something. But, a lot of it just doesn’t. It is just trying oh-so hard, pushing for resonance rather than allowing itself to resonate.

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