The Worst Person in the World: Choosing a Life
Updated: May 26, 2022
Perhaps it was better in the distant past when everything was decided for us. There was a certain path in life set for us before we were even born. There was structure, organization, and true rebellion when one decided to go awry. With liberation came chaos. It makes sense that the current abundance in the land is simultaneously making us anxious about its inevitable burning. All of the choices and possibilities are not only making one feel malcontent, helpless, and depressed, but it’s making one feel like a bad person. The search for goodness not only in others but in ourselves is a never ending task these days. Rue (Zendaya) questions her goodness in the amazing episode 4 of the brilliant second season of Euphoria currently airing weekly on HBO Max. All of the limitless choices surrounding us seem to make us look more inward.
There’s so much in this modern world, one choice or one path just never feels right. Though there is no certainty, one must let go to live a life of some stability. It’s never about happiness, it’s not even about contentment, it’s about choosing and living out one choice so that all that is inside can be felt and released outwardly through ambition, joy, and love. The final decision made in a world full of choices is what gives us freedom. With that decision comes sacrifices, yet the payoff is well worth it. The question then becomes less of when will I start living again, but how can I live again? And it will probably look a lot different than the last time you felt like you were living.
My favorite film of 2021, opening this weekend in theaters in NYC and LA, manages to capture this “millennial angst” but not just in a way that only millennials can resonate with. Sure, Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier’s third film in his existential Oslo trilogy (Reprise in 2006, Oslo, August 31st in 2011) The World Person in the World features a young woman in a very Sally Rooney-esque story (though less serious and more rom-com than Rooney, at first hilariously focused on the endless career choices of our world before shifting to a romantic-comedy about choosing lovers and feeling like a terrible person, even though she’s not, for wanting more- in fact, no one in the film is a bad person, they’re just young and trying to live and love and create), but Trier’s film is about what it means to truly live life not by giving into what is expected, but by finally giving into what we know of ourselves.
Living life does not, by any means, need to be remarkable. It just needs to be chosen through a choice offered in life, and though whatever you choose and find meaning in may be “knowledge and memories of stupid, futile things nobody cares about”, as one of Julie’s (Renate Reinsve in a wonderful performance as the young protagonist) dying lovers claims, keep going because it matters to you. Or you can always decide to reset (the film made me think about my own love for so many things in this world). That’s the beauty of films like The Worst Person in the World, they can make you reflect on your own life and decide something about it. Cinema can make you choose. It’s one of the many things in this world that can make you feel like the worst person in the world and maybe that’s why so many people are choosing the easily digestible baby food of multimillion dollar movies offered by multimillion dollar corporations. People are afraid to choose, so they’re letting companies that don’t care about them choose for them, defending these companies in the process. To avoid digression here, my point is that feeling uncomfortable can be a beautiful thing and it should be sought out more, because that feeling of discomfort may even be the proof you need to know that you are making the right choice. A lot of our problems today stem from this reluctance to be uncomfortable.
The film is staged in chapters, like a story, Julie’s story. Each one has a clever title but there’s nothing really clever about Julie’s life (part of the genius of the film is how it doesn’t take itself seriously yet knows how serious life is, it’s a mess tonally, but so is life). She’s smart but she doesn’t know what she wants. A dilemma any young person can relate to. She just wants to make sure her life is truly lived and without getting into too much detail spoiler-wise, she finds her path. She decides what’s best for her. She makes a choice and she no longer feels like the worst person in the world. The final shot will forever be one of my favorite shots in cinema because of its simplicity, its utter lack of remarkability. But Julie is finally living her life and living it well, how she sees it fit to live. A decision must be made. In the modern world where the weather is turning mean and mercurial, the internet is making us stupid and insane, and the options are endless, choose something or someone before it’s all gone. Live it out and live it well, and make sure it’s making you a better person in the process.