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 post forty. Bright Days Ahead started the trend. And 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 in late middle age. And about the aching void this leaves in a woman’s life affecting her wellbeing and confidence.
As Bryon once wrote: “Man’s love is of man’s life a part; it is a woman’s whole existence”. Not satisfied with being a mother or a literature professor in Paris, 50- year old Claire (Binoche) 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. And soon she’s inventing a fake profile and befriending his assistant Alex, 29, masquerading as 24-year-old Clara, and Alex takes the bait. Conversations with her shrink intense (Garcia is masterful as Dr Boormans) and the two women become enthralled in the story that Claire is creating, Boormans finding it hard to remain professional.
As their flirty chat intensifies on social media and phone calls, Alex is soon in thrall to the woman of his dreams. Claire does the maths and reality bites. Lacking the confidence to meet Alex in person, she has meanwhile grown accustomed to his online attention, feeding her feelings of lust and longing. And she knows how to keep him onboard. But not for ever. As she deludes Alex, she is also deludes herself and this feeling sends her spiralling back into desperation. If she looked young again, she could be having real sex with this guy. But 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. Juliette Binoche delivers an incredible portrait of a woman struggling to cope with the wounds inflicted by loneliness and growing older. MT
BERLINALE FILM FESTIVAL SPECIAL | 7-17 FEBRUARY 2019