The film world may have given up on sly romantic comedies, but no one seems to have told Norwegian Joachim Trier. The director’s latest feature film Oslo, August 31 and Thelma is a welcome addition to this long-neglected genre – a sexy, witty and poignant comic drama that captures the rhythm of modern love life and has its soul anchored in the best of traditions movie romance.
It’s a two-time Oscar nominee battling for Best International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay at Sunday’s ceremony, while 34-year-old star Renate Reinsve, who wasn’t previously well known outside of Norway, deservedly as Best Actress Award July. Its comically dark title makes more sense in the Norwegian original. Verdens verste menneske is a phrase with a similar meaning to “mea culpa” or “my bad”: more self-mockery aside than brutal moral condemnation.
Reinsve plays Julie, a bright, restless woman from Oslo who is navigating her late 20s with little idea of what might lie behind them. She’s a med student, psychology student, and aspiring professional photographer—that is, bookstore clerk and owner of a lot of expensive camera gear that she bought with her student loans. Our first glimpse of her is a real breath-hold moment: she’s standing on a balcony overlooking the city at dusk, wearing a backless cocktail dress, smoking a cigarette and gazing thoughtfully at – or maybe after – something we can’t quite understand. A little later, the event turns out to be a book launch party for her friend Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a comic artist trying to get down to more serious work. He is the protagonist, she is the beautiful accessory. The film follows Julie’s quest for a life in which she can clearly play the leading role.
Trier and his regular co-writer Eskil Vogt divide the film into 12 chapters, and just minutes into the second their heart throws them off course. At a wedding party, she meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), a friendly coffee shop clerk with a vague aura of comedian Pete Davidson. The chemistry between the two is instant and scorching, and they decide to be as intimate as possible without getting unfaithful — no kissing or fondling, but plenty of secrets, elbow-nipping and smelling each other’s sweat.
It sounds disgusting. In fact, it’s the most romantic scene in cinemas so far this year – at least for a few minutes until an even more beautiful one comes along. After this exuberant evening, Julie begins to reconsider her relationship with Aksel, who has settled into a comfortable rut. One morning as he pours her coffee, she flips the light switch in the kitchen and time inexplicably stands still, allowing her to run away and spend a perfect day with Eivind in a city that would otherwise have frozen in its tracks. The Worst Person in the World adores its characters, but it’s also head over heels with Oslo itself, in the way so many American films swoon over New York.
Even when the initial heat of the central love triangle gives way to tragedy and delicate decisions, the film’s teasing spirit and compassion remain. It’s a tale of ordinary people in all their confused wonderfulness, and you can’t help but cheer them at every contradictory turn.
15 certificate, 128 min. D: Joaquim Trier. In the cinema from Friday
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2021/07/09/worst-person-world-cannes-review-cerebral-sexy-story-love-happiness/ a cerebral, sexy story about the search for happiness