"a film that celebrates a woman who doesn’t want to be a slave to Society’s standards and has incredible resilience and strength"
This Biographical drama is based on the extraordinary life of Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, this movie celebrates the famous French writer through the beginning of her career, while exploring her life as an independent woman in a world in which men had all the power.
Directed by Wash Westmoreland, the film is set in France between the 1800 and the 1900 following Colette’s life as a ghostwriter for her husband Willy, until she decides to take her life and sexuality in her own hands and conquer her independence as well as her own voice.
The Second film presented for the headline gala of the London Film Festival, Colette is a biographical film with a touch of romanticised storytelling.
The cinematography is dynamic and compelling. Westmoreland has a clear style that evolves with the protagonists. While following Colette through the years, the style matures with her. Innocence leaves space to maturity, the tones change from bright to dark and then bright again according to Colette’s experiences and mood.
The camera often lingers on close ups to highlight the feelings overpowering each character. Their emotions are completely on display, especially during intimate moments, without making them too crass or explicit, but still allowing the audience to experience Colette’s discoveries alongside her.
Keira Knightly shows again that she is the queen of period drama. However, this time, her character doesn’t conform at all with what is expected from woman during the Belle Époque; but rather she shows a rebellious and adventurous side of her personality as well as her sexuality. Knightly is impeccable throughout the film, giving an honest interpretation of a woman living her life as she pleases and outside any social conformity.
Dominic West as ambitious entrepreneur Willy, plays the part of the witty but talentless man perfectly; Willy loves his wife tremendously, but he is also a man of his time, seeking and seizing opportunities everywhere, all to keep his name on everyone’s lips. He accepts Colette’s sexual interests in women with curiosity because he doesn’t see it as betrayal, but rather has something to arouse his sexual fantasies. West is brilliant in portraying Willy as a fragile and scared man hiding behind a façade of bravado and egocentrism. A man who wants to control everything but who is completely enslaved by his own impulses.
Sexual awakening, cross dressing and homosexuality are at the centre of the story. Throughout the film, Colette grows as a woman and a writer. At first she is fine with being Willy’s ghost-writer. However, the more popular her stories become, the more independent she wants to be and get credit for her hard work. She is a woman out of her time and she is not afraid of living her life according to her desires.
In a moment, in our modern history, in which women are fighting to be heard and step out of every man’s shadow, Colette is a film that celebrates a woman who doesn’t want to be a slave to Society’s standards and has incredible resilience and strength in her fight against a world dominated by the patriarchy.