Dir: Safy Nebbou Writer: Safy Nebbou, Julie Peyr | Cast: Juliette Binoche, François Civil, Nicole Garcia, Marie-Ange Casta, Guillaume Gouix, Jules Houplain, Jules Gauzelin, Charles Berling, Claude Perron | French, 101′
A little bit late to the party comes another film about female sexuality after fifty. Bright Days Ahead started the trend, and then Claire Denis and Juliette Binoche did a great job with Let the Sun Shine In (2017). Now Binoche lends her talents as a similar woman in Who You Think I Am, a much darker and more introspective look at the loss of sexual power and identity that can afflict the female of the species, often affecting her wellbeing and confidence.
As Byron once wrote: “Man’s love is of man’s life a part; it is a woman’s whole existence”. And this is very much the case for Claire (Binoche) not satisfied with just being a mother or a literature professor in Paris, she also misses being desired, touched and lusted after. Abandoned by her husband, and keen to understand why her younger lover has also left, she idly delves into Facebook for a solution. A fat chance there, you may be thinking. But soon she’s inventing a fake profile and befriending her Alex, 29, masquerading as 24-year-old Clara, and Alex predictably takes the bait. Conversations with her shrink intensify and the two women become enthralled in the story that Claire is creating, Nicole Garcia is masterful as D Boormans finding it hard to remain a professional on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, as their flirty chat intensifies on social media and phone calls, Alex is soon in thrall to the woman of his dreams, Claire in disquise. But when she does the maths, reality bites. Lacking the confidence to meet Alex in person, she has nevertheless grown accustomed to his online attention, feeding her feelings of lust and longing, day by day. An experienced woman of the world, she knows just how to keep him onboard online. But not for ever, as Alex is gagging to meet her. And her elusiveness is driving him mad, and making him keener. But she deludes Alex, she is also deludes herself and this feeling sends her spiralling back into desperation. If only she looked young again, she could be having real sex with this guy, but isn’t that thought process also self-defeating. If she was confident, maybe he wouldn’t mind her ageing body, as he already loved her mind. And his feelings were real.
Based on the eponymous novel by Camille Laurens, Safy Nebbou convincingly probes Claire’s drift into virtual reality exploring it from different perspectives and exploring her psyche. There are so many angles here to contemplate, and Nebbou does a great job of understanding the female point of view. And as 89 year old Bernie Ecclestone announces the arrival of his latest kid, the subject of sexuality once again rears its ugly head in the gender politics debate. Juliette Binoche delivers an incredible portrait of a woman struggling to cope with the wounds inflicted by loneliness and growing older, from a female perspective. MT
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