Coming off the heels of the hugely-successful Still Alice, director/co-writer Wash Westmoreland tackles the life and works of the fascinating Colette in a racy, taboo-busting, and endearing film. The dramatic crux of the film revolves around the unconventional and increasingly strained marriage between Colette and her husband Willy, with the former desperately racing towards the future in both her life as well as her work, while Willy remains stuck in the past suffocating Colette in his own world.
We see Colette start out as this intellectually savvy yet almost naive young woman who falls head over heels for Willy but as the film goes on, the layers slowly peel away until Colette finally sees him for what he truly is. The character of Claudine that Colette has written about in her books is essentially her, but Willy takes all of that away from Colette by, not only putting his name on the books instead of his her’s, but also marketing it, capitalizing on it through stage productions, and having affairs with young women dressed like Claudine. That personal identity is stripped away from her, which makes for almost fitting comparisons with Still Alice as that too was also a film about a woman whose identity is being stripped away from her, even if that story was in relation to an entirely different subject matter with Alzheimer’s disease.
Westmoreland’s direction and attention-to-detail is impeccable, but he always makes sure that there’s plenty of emphasis on character, solidifying the complicated and complex nature of the people involved. Anchoring the film is the performances and Keira Knightley gives one of her best , capturing the feisty, joyful, restless and often downtrodden nature of Colette. Also, providing great support is Dominic West, who manages to make the character somewhat strangely engaging even though he performs incredibly shady acts. Just a shame the film wastes talents like Fiona Shaw and Eleanor Tomlinson in rather thankless roles.
Overall, Colette is an impressive feat from Wash Westmoreland and co-writer Richard Glatzer that brilliantly tackles the topics of independency, the fight for recognition and accepting varying forms of love and affection. If you’re someone who, like this reviewer, detested the recent Keira Knightley period drama, The Aftermath, then this film will provide the perfect antidote .
Dir: Wash Westmoreland
Scr: Richard Glatzer, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Wash Westmoreland
Cast: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Eleanor Tomlinsonm, Denise Gough, Aiysha Hart, Fiona Shaw
Prd: Elizabeth Karlsen, Pamela Koffler, Michel Litvak, Christine Vachon
DOP: Giles Nuttgens
Music: Thomas Adès
Country: UK, US, Hungary
Run time: 111 mins
Colette is available on Digital, Blu-Ray and DVD from 13th May.