Growing Out Your Bangs with Joachim Trier
Here’s a recipe: take two conventionally attractive people (add a third to spice it up a bit), craft a charming depiction of their fateful first encounter, have them drink chilled chardonnay at a few summer parties, place their desirable bodies in the company of equally desirable interior design, a charming mix of Bauhaus era collector’s pieces, IKEA shelves and crinkled linen. Then let their blossoming relationship run into a few obstacles, but make sure they grow in the process of overcoming them. End with a kiss or, if this is a European production, a few silent tears, accompanied by the newly acquired wisdom that life, while full of melancholy, is ultimately as beautiful and fragile as the two hours of film you’ve just created.
Joachim Trier’s newest feature film The Worst Person in the World, the final part of his ‘Oslo Trilogy’, follows this rom-com formula to the letter: Julie (Renate Reinsve) is in her late twenties and slightly adrift after failing to complete two degrees. She falls in love with Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a successful comic book author who is a few years older than her and begins to build a life with him. Just as the going gets a little tougher, Julie spends a whirlwind night of “not cheating” with Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), who shares her subdued daddy issues and cares about recycling (he’s a Millennial!). Along with the hairstyles of its female lead, the story grows a little more complicated from here, prompting viewers to contemplate the nature of fate and which of these two heartthrobs Julie is supposed to end up with. Spoiler alert: in a twist that offers about as many insights into the causes of feminism as the excerpts from Julie’s first published article on ‘Oral Sex in the Age of #metoo’, it’s actually neither of them!
The Worst Person in the World is neither a subversion of genre conventions nor, perhaps for fear of kitsch, a whole-hearted embrace of them. For once, the lack of pathos, slightly cheesy soundtrack and scenes of gratifyingly romantic grandeur actually work to the detriment of a film. A rom-com then is perhaps like love: best embraced unabashedly.