A girl’s face is submerged in water, her eyes fastened simply to the left of our personal. Her pores and skin is pale, her lips are closed. A vein pulses above her proper forehead. She is surrounded by darkness, seemingly dazed, her physique immobile. As if to sign that she’s nonetheless alive, a bubble breaks on the water’s floor, forming rings that radiate out from her mouth to halo her visage. Fifteen seconds move and never a blink. She appears without delay to sink into the abyss and await the second to come back up for air.
In this primary, disquieting shot in Who You Think I Am, Saby Nebbou’s sixth function, launched final weekend, Juliette Binoche confirms her standing as presumably probably the most fascinating actor onscreen right this moment. Her vulnerability is disarming, her immersion into her character solely with out self-importance — the latter all of the extra highly effective as she performs one in every of her most useless and narcissistic protagonists up to now.
Meet Claire Muillard: divorced mother and colorfully scarfed professor at a Paris college, whose lectures resemble Ted Talks, if Ted Talks have been ever about literary heroines like Marquise de Merteuil or Ibsen’s Nora. Ditched by her Millennial lover at the beginning of the movie, a bearded twerp named Ludo (Guillaume Gouix), Claire fabricates a Fb profile underneath the title “Clara Antunes” to stalk him on-line. When a flirtatious message arrives from Alex (François Civil), Ludo’s waggishly good-looking images assistant, Claire can’t resist taking part in the a part of a lady lower than half her age. To this point, so Fb. However, like so many catfishing cautionary tales, what begins as a little bit of indulgent masquerade spirals into wild manipulation. “Do you use social media?” Claire asks her shrink (a poker-faced Nicole Garcia, who seems like a chillier Candice Bergen). “For people like me it’s both the shipwreck and the raft.”
Regardless of such self-awareness, Claire doesn’t know when to sink to the underside or paddle ashore. Smoking alone on her balcony, dolefully watching visitors from her glassy residence complicated, she is each mid-life disaster cliché, and but Binoche by no means kowtows to pathetic stereotypes. Although hardly the primary narrative to current an completed tutorial lady making lousy romantic choices, Who You Think I Am presents a believable sufficient set of circumstances: a 50-something lovely lady loses her husband to a different, presumably youthful, lady and is determined to really feel needed once more. The stakes of her deception, initially at the very least, appear low sufficient. A girl who’s seen the world, Claire has seen a variety of male ego — and clearly is aware of learn how to play to Alex’s, complimenting his images to tease him in, sprinkling her teenage sons’ slang into her texts to sound youthful than she is. And in some ways, all through their courtship, she is equally seducing us — mocking her therapist, a foil for the viewers, for getting off on the thrills of vicarious dwelling. A part of what makes her character engrossing is how simple she is to root for, how a lot we wish her palpable loneliness to fade by means of any means potential — till, in fact, we don’t.
Fairly convincing is Binoche’s skill to alter her timbre to mimic a 24-year-old; her voice is softer, slower, nervously giggly when she is admired. “Your voice is very young. You’re legal, I hope,” Alex jokes. Much less believably, Claire posts a profile pic that intently resembles a Bella Hadid Instagram selfie (however, as we study later within the movie, her choice of whose pics to filch are hardly “random,” as she at first insists). In this fashion, Who You Think I Am reveals the propulsive energy of the voice to constructing each erotic and emotional intimacy. Some might say that Alex would have demanded to satisfy Claire in individual, however it appears believable that he’d additionally, initially at the very least, need to lose himself within the fantasy of Clara, an “intriguing” mental fashionista, simply as Claire would need to bask in Alex.
The comedian features of Claire’s ruse abound, and grant the primary half of the movie a welcome dose of levity, together with believably cringey moments, as when she circles round a highschool parking zone chatting with Alex on her cellphone whereas her befuddled offspring chew gum and stare from the sidewalk. Others are extra unhappy than humorous — as an illustration, Claire rolling round her bed room ground, emulating the strikes that “Clara” makes in a selfie of an newbie pole-dancing session.
Nebbou’s adaptation of Camille Laurens’s hit novel can at occasions be a bit overly expository, counting on dialogue for info that may simply be conveyed by means of picture, however the script additionally subtly (then not-so-subtly) gestures to the hypocrisy of sexist double requirements for growing old lovers. “You thought you could introduce me to your sons? I could be their brother,” scoffs Ludo earlier than tucking out of their Uber. When a person throughout the desk dubs Claire a cougar at a cocktail party, a feminine pal asks, “We say ‘cougar’ for women, but what’s the word for men?” “We say ‘man,’ no?” is the response, adopted by hearty laughter. When Claire does lastly determine to satisfy Alex, at Gare Montparnasse, ravishing on the transferring walkway, he seems proper by means of her. True, he has no concept that she’s his “Clara,” however her invisibility on this scene is painful to behold.
France is famously a tradition wherein lusty madams can remain sexual as they age — and has produced at the very least 4 movies within the final three years wherein a now 57-year-old Binoche disrobes and will get it on. However slightly than fête Claire as a Twenty first-century Colette, the movie exposes the risks of searching for infatuation above all else. “It’s important to you that people find you beautiful and young,” her therapist observes, when questioning why her shopper would get pleasure from receiving consideration meant for a lady who appeared nothing like her. Claire’s candor in response is refreshing, if the results dire. “It’s a pleasure I’ve never wanted to give up. I like being looked at, being pretty. Don’t you?”
Nothing rejuvenates greater than being enamored of one other, as a result of arguably nothing makes one really feel completely clueless and arrogantly all-knowing abruptly. We witness Claire’s spectacular transformation most strikingly inside probably the most pedestrian of settings: a two-minute-long take set completely in a grocery store detergent part, the place she speaks to Alex by means of her headphones. “Something’s happening with us,” he tells her, after she admits that it’s been a very long time since she’s “felt this good with someone.” Frozen mid-aisle, she beams brighter than the row of fluorescent lights above the body. “It doesn’t happen like that … in one day,” she at first posits breathily, 20 years lifted from her face. “Sometimes it does,” he demurs. “The proof.”
In the following scene Claire meets up together with her ex-husband, Gilles, who marvels at her new ebullience. “I’m liberating myself from you,” she says, strutting forward. “It’s totally kickass.” In the next scene, Claire downs a number of flutes of champagne at an instructional get together, heads to the middle of the room, and dances exuberantly, her hair, in a French twist, falling round her shoulders. “I wasn’t pretending to be 24,” she asserts to her therapist later. “I was 24.”
With out giving an excessive amount of away (there’s a purpose this drama can be marketed as a “thriller”), a part of why the movie is value watching is to see how shortly Claire capitulates to her obsession, how far she takes her reckless habits. One of many delights of Binoche’s latest work is the big range of unambiguously immoral girls with zero apology: In Claire Denis’s Excessive Life, she’s a tormented space-age murderess; in Olivier Assayas’s Non-Fiction, she’s a refined adulteress; and in Nebbou’s newest she’s a professorial catfisher and negligent mother whose iPhone dramatics disrupt her personal undergraduates on the campus library.
Not not like Gena Rowlands, whom Binoche counts as one of her favorite actresses, she could also be finest identified for her midlife film roles slightly than for her breakout roles in her 20s. Not like movies which recommend, misogynistically, that ladies are inherently liable to deceit, or movies which insist, quixotically, that ladies are all the time the extra virtuous intercourse, Who You Think I Am acknowledges erotic double requirements with out merely blaming all of it on the patriarchy. Claire behaves badly partly as a result of different males have handled her badly, however she is in the end accountable for herself and doesn’t fake to be any higher than she is. An anti-heroine for the digital age, she beguiles and baffles at equal bandwidths.
Who You Think I Am is at present in theaters.
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