The latest vehicle for French actress Juliette Binoche is Celle que Vous Croyez (Who You Think I Am), directed by Safy Nebbou and based on the novel of the same name (reviewed here) by Camille Laurens.
Binoche plays Claire, a 50-year-old literature professor with two sons whose husband has left her for a woman half her age.
Claire has been having an affair with a younger man, Ludo (Guillaume Gouix), who unceremoniously dumps her when he suspects that she is becoming a tad too attached. He won’t take her calls, and when she tries to friend him on Facebook, he rejects her. Still obsessed with him, she wants to know what he’s up to (is there another woman?), so she creates a false identity and friends his roommate, the 27-year-old Alex (François Civil), in hopes of gleaning some information.
Online she is now Clara, 25, beautiful and sexy. One thing leads to another, and Alex and Clara are soon in cyber-love and having phone sex, but she always finds a way to avoid meeting him in person.
The film cuts back and forth between Claire telling this story to her shrink (Nicole Garcia) and the enactment of it. Although the affair is totally virtual, it makes Claire a very happy woman, until things finally come to a head.
Since I had read the book, I relied on Frances, the friend I saw it with, for an objective opinion unmuddled by comparisons with the novel. She found the film entertaining and absorbing, but was greatly puzzled by one of the plot twists near the end.
I reassured her that there are many puzzling elements in the novel as well, most of which were thankfully left out of the film. I, too, found Celle que Vous Croyez interesting and absorbing, but by the end, I had the same complaint that I had about the book. Both give men the power to turn an otherwise sane woman into a certifiable wreck.
Binoche excels at playing a fragile woman, complete with trembling upper lip, as we have already seen in Un Beau Soleil Intérieur (Let the Sunshine In). She is in good form here, and lets herself be beautiful even with eyeglasses, straggly hair, wrinkles on the aforementioned upper lip and hardly any makeup.
There are many funny moments in the movie, as when Claire/Clara is chatting online with Alex and struggles to find slang words a 25-year-old Frenchwoman would use. Then, when he asks her why she isn’t on “insta,” she is genuinely perplexed and has to Google it to find out that it means “Instagram.”
There are also some fine images in Celle que Vous Croyez, as in the scene in which the images of Claire and Alex are reflected multiple times as they chase each other around glass panels, or when Claire receives some very bad news while riding up the outdoor escalator in the Centre Pompidou. When she reaches the top, she walks to the cantilevered glassed-in viewpoint and stands staring outward as the camera pulls away, leaving her very alone on the edge of the precipice.