Reviews

September 17, 2021

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto Film Festival Reviews: “The Worst Person In The World,” “Encounter” & “Compartment No. 6”

 

THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (Neon – TBD):  The Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier, despite being a subject of critical raves over the years, hasn’t penetrated the space where arthouse favorites become known to the mainstream.  (It didn’t help that his English-language debut Louder Than Bombs was a bust.) The Worst Person In the World, his most accessible film to date, may change that.  Although Trier considers it the conclusion of his “Oslo trilogy” (with Reprise and Oslo, August 31), the films are only loosely linked by theme and location, and Worst Person doesn’t require any knowledge of its predecessors.  It’s a coming of age story about Julie (Renate Reinsve, who won Best Actress at Cannes), who’s seeking her way in matters both romantic and professional as she reaches her 30s, with many stumbles along her path.  The script by Trier and Eskil Vogt has a novelistic chaptered structure, and it bounces through its 127 minutes, with a throughline of the various steps of her relationship with an older graphic novelist named Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), as well as with her family and friends.  Reprise and Oslo, August 31 were largely grim affairs, but Worst Person has a sense of humor, and even a set-piece sequence as enchanting as a production number from a Hollywood musical.  That isn’t to say that Trier is all fun, and Worst Person delves into mortality and grief before it’s done.  Even the sadness, though, is leavened by aspiration and emotional learning.  Worst Person could only work with a lead actress able to encompass all the delights and intelligence, as well as the failures and mistakes that Julie displays, and Reinsve gives a star-is-born performance.  Trier’s use of music, both the score by Ola Flottum and the song cues, is worthy of particular note.  The Worst Person In the World puts Trier onto a new level, and his star as well.

ENCOUNTER (Amazon – theatrical release Dec 3, streaming Dec 10):  It’s difficult to say very much about Michael Pearce’s Encounter, because even a description of its genre would quickly amount to a spoiler.  Suffice it to say that when we meet Malik (Riz Ahmed), he’s desperate to save his young sons (Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada) from an invasion of alien micro-organisms, and he embarks on a dangerous journey to rescue them.  The script, by Pearce and Joe Barton, does a solid job of playing with our expectations, much as Pearce’s previous Beast (notable for providing Jessie Buckley with one of her first major roles) toyed with the expectations of romantic thrillers.  Ahmed adds another role to his growing gallery of intense performances that stick in the memory.  Pearce, working with a limited budget, keeps the film on a hurtling pace (the editing is by Maya Maffioli) and emphasizes the emotions along with the action.  Eventually, the contrivances pile up too high, and the last half hour becomes something of a wreck, although still a compelling one thanks to the work by Ahmed and the other actors.  After becoming more interesting than one would have expected, sadly Encounter becomes less so.  It’s still worth a look once it’s found its streaming home.

COMPARTMENT NO. 6 (Sony Classics – TBD):  A Russian road trip movie, set on a train.  Laura (Seidi Haarla), a young Finnish woman in Russia to study ancient pictoglyphs, is dealing with the fact that her latest romance is probably over, as she heads alone on a trip to Murmansk that she and her girlfriend were supposed to make together.  She finds herself sharing a compartment with Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), a Russian miner who prides himself on his outspoken rudeness.  The two dislike each other on sight, but–surprise!–over the course of the long journey, they gradually thaw out.  Director Juho Kuosmanen, working from a script he wrote with Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman, hits the expected narrative beats, with enough variations by virtue of places and practices unfamiliar to Americans.  The two actors work well together, and the action pleasingly rises to a visual and emotional climax once the train reaches Murmansk.  Still, it’s hard to see how Compartment No 6 shared the Cannes Grand Prix award for a story dynamic that wouldn’t look all that fresh without subtitles.  The trip is strictly coach.

 



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on screened.com and the-burg.com. In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."