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Young Critic Florence Tilley discovers a woman ahead of her time in Colette.

4 February 2019

If you had any doubts about seeing Colette our talented Young Critic Florence Tilley may persuade you in this stunning review.

Based on the fascinating true story of a revolutionary French female writer, Keira Knightley is Idonie-Gabrielle Colette, the humble country girl and newly-wed who is whisked away to Paris, agreeing to ghostwrite for her supposed ‘literary entrepreneur’ of a husband.

Set in the late 19th and early 20th century, a period that is renowned for its rigid hierarchical social structures, Colette does not shy away from a woman’s struggle against patriarchy. Our heroine is an incredibly talented young woman, however both her husband and the society she lives in refuse to provide her with the credit she deserves. Having spent the majority of her womanhood in a subordinate position, Colette rebels against the oppression she is subject to as the film showcases a captivating tale of female empowerment.

Colette pays homage to the French literary genius in a sensitive and sophisticated manner, integrating unexpected plot twists that deliver moments of ironic humour. The film is a polished period piece that captivates its audience through its engaging domestic drama, and glimpses of its female protagonist’s exploration of her sexuality. Visually, the film is a masterpiece too, capturing the idyllic French countryside and the equally vibrant Paris cityscape, whilst flaunting an array of beautiful costumes in every scene.

In addition to the cinematography, the performances were impressive. Alongside Keira Knightley, Dominic West stars as Colette’s unfaithful and tyrannical husband, Willy. Knightley and West encapsulate Colette and Willy’s highly complex marriage, exposing the toxic nature of their relationship in an authentic and believable way.

Despite Willy’s overpowering oppressive force, Colette defies patriarchal authority as she blossoms into a strong and independent character. Colette’s courage and fearlessness unlocks both her literary and sexual liberation, proving her to be a remarkably modern and inspirational young woman who is incredibly ahead of her time. 

By Florence Tilley

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