“Who You Think I Am” (2019)
Running time: 101 minutes
Written by: Safy Nebbou and Julie Peyr based on Celle que vous croyez by Camille Laurens
Directed by: Safy Nebbou
Featuring: Juliette Binoche, Nicole Garcia, François Civil, Guillaume Gouix, Charles Berling, Jules Houplain and Jules Gauzelin
Claire Millaud: “I do use social media, Dr. Bormans. For people like me it’s both, a shipwreck and a life raft.”
Released this month on DVD is the French drama “Who You Think I Am” (2019) featuring Juliette Binoche in a film that covers much territory in the modern world we inhabit especially social media and how that relates to the formation of relationships in many forms, the good, the bad and the weird. It is also a movie that walks a fine line by not being about any one effect in the formation of those relationships. The movie is a mixture of genres in that it is not a comedy or a thriller but a drama that inhabits a space that many might recognise but may find it difficult to properly categorise. This is one of the main strengths of the movie, that and of course the performance by Binoche herself which as usual is exquisite if not completely expected.
This a movie that asks why an older woman could not strike up an affair with a younger man, something that in reverse happens in the movie with Binoche’s characters own wayward husband. Not only that but even in a vast array of movies set in the modern world it seems to be almost de rigueur and almost expected that an older man will always end up with a much younger woman but is almost impossible the other way around.
The movie is based around Claire, a middle-aged professor of French literature, shares custody of her two sons with her ex-husband Gilles. She carries on a casual affair with the emotionally distant Ludovic, who on one occasion lets his roommate Alex pick up his phone when Claire calls. Claire develops a fascination with Alex, whom she has only seen on social media. She creates a fake persona, “Clara Antunes”, on Facebook and connects with Alex, gradually developing an emotional affair with him. When Alex grows insistent upon meeting in person, Claire decides to call off the affair rather than risk him being disappointed with her middle-aged self. Alex deletes his profile, leading Claire to meet with Ludovic to find out about him. He tells her that Alex, broken-hearted over a girl on Facebook, has taken his own life.
Directed by Safy Nebbou who has been steadily making films for the past twenty years here takes a detour into movie that is far more quirky and eccentric that his other work but with the aid of a solid script by himself and Julie Peyr he is able to harness the talents of his leading lady into something quite original and striking while at the same time commenting on modern society and of course social media which includes the idea of identity, ageing and what that means when we as people want something that either we are unable to attain or covet secretly.
As one of the defining French actors of the past five decades Juliette Binoche as usual shines in whatever role she plays, although in this movie she may seem too glamorous as someone who is unable to be or feel attractive to the opposite sex. However she is still watchable and believable as anyone could be in this kind of movie that asks for the audience to take a leap of faith with the filmmakers. Some of the best and more enjoyable scenes are those between Claire and her therapist Dr. Bormans that are a narrative device but also mean there are truths told out loud. The two women’s long conversations, are laced with perceptive, lightly caustic commentary about the disproportionate degree to which women’s social and sexual behavior is scrutinized and judged by society, themselves included.
“Who You Think I Am” (2019) is such a welcome movie as it tackles much about identity, ageing and what that means from a feminine point of view that has not been common among filmmakers. There are endless accounts of men again either alone, with younger women or even with their own peers. What I enjoyed about this movie was the point of view it takes as well as what it means to be older coupled with the decisions people make to feel something from someone who they have a connection with regardless of age. This was refreshing as it also attempted to defy typical tropes that have been seen in other films especially from Hollywood and even UK productions. If there is one thing that is lacking in modern cinema it is originality and while the story may seem unoriginal the narrative is not which is one key element that makes this a must watch.