Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Verdens verste menneske
Norway/France/Sweden/Denmark/USA, 2021. Arte France Cinema, B-Reel Films, Film i Vast, MK2 Productions, Oslo Pictures, Snowglobe Films. Screenplay by Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt. Cinematography by Kasper Tuxen. Produced by Andrea Berentsen Ottmar, Thomas Robsahm. Music by Ola Flottum. Production Design by Roger Rosenberg. Costume Design by Ellen Daehli Ystehede. Film Editing by Olivier Bugge Coutte.
Joachim Trier lightens up after the dour sadness of Oslo August 31 and Louder Than Bombs, working at the top of his game in this voyage through the life of an infectiously appealing protagonist. Julie (Renate Reinsve) is suffering the woes of a gifted and promising millennial, unable to decide where to settle thanks to a world that has made her options endless and therefore obscure: nearing thirty and in medical school, she switches to psychology on an instinct before dropping out of school to pursue a career as a photographer and then a writer. Her choices in relationships are no less scattered, leaving her long-time boyfriend for a cartoonist (Anders Danielsen Lie) that she meets at a bar. He’s forty and she loves him, but while there’s nothing to indicate that their domestic bliss is in any way flawed, she begins flirting with the goofily handsome stranger named Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) that she meets at a wedding that she crashes. Pursuing this new possibility doesn’t exactly bring closure to her search for happiness, and the reason why this film is so wonderful is that Trier has no judgments to make of his character, both sympathizing with her indecisiveness and celebrating her natural charisma (which also allows him some jabs at the inflexibility of the younger generation, such as the “post-feminist” scourge who gives Lie a hard time in a radio interview). It helps that Julie’s charisma is brought to life with such verve by Reinsve, who deservedly won the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her performance, expertly underplaying the character’s most devastating revelations. Trier relies on her talent to effortlessly pull off a series of cinematic indulgences, including a capricious romantic sequence involving the world coming to a standstill, and a partly animated scene in which Julie gets high on shrooms and really becomes the lifeblood of the party. The decision to tell the story in chapter segments that are marked by on-screen chirons is an unnecessary overdetermination, the Desplechin-like spontaneity that marries literary stream of consciousness with cinema is enough to satisfy the viewer, but the film’s treatment of happiness, as an experience that occurs in moments impossible to pin down, more than compensates for this unwelcome trope.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Original Screenplay; Best International Feature Film
Cannes Film Festival Award: Best Actress (Renate Reinsve)
Critics Choice Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film
European Film Award Nominations: Best European Actress (Renate Reinsve); Best European Screenwriter
Toronto International Film Festival: 2021