March 4, 2022 | LIFE | By Frances Thyer | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
We all know that we are more attracted to the things we can’t have than the things we already do.
The film “The Worst Person in The World” explores how making decisions based on longing for what we don’t have can have long term consequences for those around us, and most importantly, ourselves.
“The Worst Person in The World” is a Norwegian film divided into twelve chapters bookended with a prologue and an epilogue. The film follows the protagonist, Julie, a woman in her late 20s to early 30s, as she makes life decisions with a focus on her romantic relationships. During the film, Julie goes from being a medical student to a freelance photographer to a writer, all of her own volition.
With many of her decisions, she moves on without looking back. Although she is the main character, the story is told as though it were a third person novel, giving the audience minimal insight into her personal perspective.
The film’s main love interest, Aksel, is an older, successful comic book writer who Julie meets while dating another man. This relationship is introduced as one dimensional, providing the audience with only a single scene of them deciding on shelf and closet space before bringing us into their established life together.
The story is both ineffective at illuminating real insight into their relationship and successful at showing Julie’s ineptitude at staying present. Aksel tells her at one point, “I’m sure I remember things about you that you’ve forgotten.”
Seemingly dismayed by the lack of fulfillment in her own life, Julie attends a college party where she meets another man, ultimately ending her relationship with Aksel. Despite being momentarily happy with him, Julie becomes more distant towards this new boyfriend as she learns that Aksel is suffering.
“The Worst Person in The World” provides an honest portrayal of growing up, contrasting the pressures of adulthood with the allure of youth and freedom. Julie dances in the living room with Aksel and his parents joyously, worrying afterwards that she ruined the night for the family. She appears carefree as she shares cigarettes and stories at the college party, simultaneously fretting about cheating on her boyfriend.
Julie is confused and self-destructive, grasping fleeting moments of happiness that she doesn’t seem to want to hold on to. Speaking with Aksel about his life towards the end of the film, he tells her, “I began to worship what had been. And now I have nothing else. I have no future. I can only look back.”
Julie is rarely acknowledged for her goals or capabilities outside of her romantic relationships. An article she writes, which is the only real professional accolade of hers shown in the film, focuses on sex. We are left wishing that the themes of introspection and a desire for more could have provided us a more well-rounded view of Julie outside of her partners.
Joachim Trier, the director of the film, makes one concept exceptionally clear: when someone is cruel to others, they are ultimately hurting themselves. Julie leaves a momentary gash in the lives of those she encounters throughout the film, while she herself feels those wounds the deepest.
“The Worst Person in The World” illustrates the pains of believing that there is always something better out there for you. The fine line between finding a happier life and running tirelessly to the next thing with a fake smile is a difficult one to toe.
As the audience, we realize that Julie will continue to shoot herself in the foot again and again. Fulfillment may not have to come from something you don’t have, especially if the thing you are looking for is an illusion.
“The World Person in the World” is not yet available to stream but is currently playing in theaters.