The Yorker at LIFF 32: Colette

“Colette”, directed by Wash Westmoreland and starring Keira Knightley is based on the life of the foremost female French novelist. What an incredible film.

 

I normally despise period dramas. I find their characters un-relatable which generally causes me to lose interest in them quickly. But this was completely different. Set in early 20th century France, Colette (Keira Knightly) is remarkable. She defies all expectations you would have of a young woman of the time. The film depicts her life as she marries a successful author, makes him one of the most successful authors in Paris, and along with scandal and affairs, sees their lives transform completely. This incredible story is made all the richer at the realisation that it is based off a true story. She is real. This woman existed. It’s always refreshing to see a powerful woman on screen but to see one shown in a time where we’re led to believe that all women were subservient puppets it’s even more surprising, and therefore even more extraordinary.

Knightly was magnificent in the role. Her character was completely absorbing. She was fascinating to watch as she combatted any expectations those around her had of her. It’s the first film I’ve seen Knightley in where I have believed every moment and word she performed. She was so incredibly truthful, down to even the smallest of gestures.

Dominic West, depicting Willy, was similarly brilliant. He completely dissolved into the role and managed to make a despicable character relatively empathetic. I also found Fiona Shaw, as Collette’s mother (Sido), particularly poignant. She was arguably the most believable, truthful actor in the film to such an extent that it was almost heart breaking.

It’s rare nowadays to see a film that is so deeply capitating throughout. If you want to fall into a story that is perfectly measured in its ability to balance humour, serious drama and just general fun along with being deeply entertaining, then this is a film you should definitely seek out. I can’t wait to watch it again.

 

The Leeds International Film Festival is still happening! Until the 15th of November, the best films of the year from around the world are screened there.

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Fiona Hughes

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