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TIFF 2018: Colette
September 26, 2018
Based on a true story in late 19th century France, we first meet the stunning Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, (Keira Knightly) in her country surroundings, sauntering the open fields with her long braided hair, without a care in the world. Depicted as a graceful teen with an innocent façade, she seems happy and content with her small town life, living under her parents’ quaint roof.
A witty, wealthy business man called Willy (Dominic West) is acquainted with the family and shows off his fondness to young ‘Gabi’ to which her parents seem to happily encourage. Completely unaware to them, their daughter is actually already very much ‘on top’ of the situation, stealthily meeting up with him for bonks in the barn, rolling around in the hay fantasizing about their future.
Willy is a vibrant, popular and distinctive member of the public who holds the attention of any room he enters with a twinkle in his eye. A commissioner to all things creative, he’s constantly on the lookout for the next money-making theatrical hit. Once settled in the big city together, Gabrielle has to quickly acclimatize herself amongst the bustling intellectuals of Parisian society. We enjoy observing how she carries a blissful unawareness that people are glaring at her humble efforts of not conforming to expectations and etiquettes. She’d simply rather be true to herself than be locked up in a corseted dress, uncomfortably clothed and perhaps uncomfortably situated.
After losing his business’ momentum and now unable to pay his authors or make ends meet, he turns to his wife with an epiphany, suggesting that she should ghostwrite a novel on his behalf. Gabrielle takes pen to paper and begins to write a slight autobiography and tale about a country girl (much like herself) called Claudine who grips the imaginations of everyone who reads it.
Becoming the top selling book in Paris, Claudine becomes a brand and fashion statement of her own. She’s someone who women can relate to and who men swoon over, each book leaves readers gasping for more. When Willy shuts down Gabrielle’s request to have her name on the cover too, she begins to hold resentment and refuses to continue. That attitude wasn’t going to work for her husband and he shuts her away in a room and demands her to write. This is a pinnacle moment as she looks over towards the writing desk knowing that by doing as he tells her it places her under his control, but also by continuing to write it could be the key that unlocks her chances of freedom.
Throughout, their marriage is rocked by his unrestrained affairs and then their very own love triangles laced with comedy for our pleasure. It was out of these heated soirees’ that a new enlightened path is paved, sending Gabrielle on her own journey of sexual awakening and self-discovery. She soon meets Missy, who unlike anyone she’s ever met, likes to identify herself as a male. He helps guide her through a gorgeous transformation from Gabrielle the sweet country girl into the vibrant, brave and fiery author Colette who can be whoever she wants to be. I really want to leave this incredible storyline to your anticipation.
“You found me when I knew nothing, you molded me to your own desires, you thought that I could never break free, well you were wrong” – Colette’s strong finale statement to Willy.
There were a couple of times where the film was a bit slow, but I could still appreciate and support what the plot was encouraging and I loved the costumes and how meticulously the sense of the era has been crafted.
This true story is recreated to remind us not to be ashamed of what you find out about who you are along life’s journey. Finding your identity through giving things a go and seeing the potential your true self can be and not being afraid of it. We all know Keira Knightly loves a period drama, and this one shows her at her absolute best. She totally owns this role and brings the true story of Colette alive in the most stunning, fearless and flawless way.
Wash Westmoreland (director) clearly put his heart and soul into this true stories true adaptation, it was a sensational film, a work of art from start to finish and Richard Glatzer would have been so incredibly proud.
Colette is set for release in the UK on the 20th January 2019.
Words by Lisa Coleman @Lisa_D_Coleman.