We Are All “The Worst Person in The World”

A Film Critique


Adrian Gregg, PaperClip Staff/Writer

There’s a scene roughly 40 minutes into Danish director Joachim Trier’s film “The Worst Person In The World” where we see our titular character Julie running through the streets of Oslo with the world frozen around her. Every single car, bike, person, etc in the streets of this gorgeous city is at a complete standstill as she runs to see the new love of her life, Eivind, and it is a beauty to behold. Genuine emotion and love permeate the screen, in this moment you can feel nothing but happiness for her newfound love, but Eivind is not her boyfriend … Aksel is.

In a typical film if the character you empathize with was cheating on their significant other they would always have a valid reason, but not in this film, and not in the real world either. Julie, despite being a fictional character, is written in a way more real than most people are willing to admit they are, large imperfections in her life are shown not as a way to demean the character but rather to exemplify her relatability. 

Julie starts the movie as a fledgling medical student who is beginning to realize that becoming a doctor isn’t for her, switching her major to psychology, then switching to photography, and then pursuing a career in journalism. During the midst of her self-destructive journey of discovery, she discovers a dependable older man she falls in love with, Aksel. Aksel serves as the epitome of the middle-aged struggling artist, interested in constant philosophical discussion to a point of isolation from his emotion and the world around him.

Despite Aksel being a dependable and loving boyfriend to Julie, he constantly demeans her as an intellectual. Aksel is written in a way in which he is filled with good intentions, but due to his own artistic self-involvement, he tends to ignore the opinions of anyone of a supposed lesser stature than him. He is by no means a bad person, but a flawed one, and this doesn’t have to be spelled out by the film in order for the audience to understand.

This brings us back to the title and our main character Julie it is referring to, “The Worst Person In The World” a hyperbole meant to represent all of the bad choices the character makes throughout the films. But whilst watching this film there is not a single moment where you would ever believe she is the worst person in the world or even a bad person at that. 

When you attempt to look at the actions of real people with an objective lens, even the greatest and most relatable of us look horrific. This is exactly what the film is able to show us, and it is exactly what the romance genre needs right now. 

When asking PHS Film Studies teacher Judy Butler what she wishes was more prevalent in modern film, she cites the lack of stories that come from the viewpoint of a female character rather than a male. Whilst the majority of films are shot from the perspective of men known as the Male Gaze, “The Worst Person In The World” is that rare example of a modern love story told through the female gaze.

When tied in with this film’s unsanitized views of relationships, it shows a strikingly revealing insight into the mind of a young woman just beginning to find her understanding of the world. This does not manifest perfectly, however, as in certain scenes the stellar writing of Joachim Trier falls short due to his inability to understand certain nuances of the female psyche.

Nevertheless, when put up against what most modern film viewers are accustomed to, it is a triumph. “The Worst Person In the Word” shines brightly against this year’s releases, and over time it will find its place in film history as a subversive classic of the genre.