Starring: Keira Knightley, Eleanor Tomlinson, Dominic West
Duration: 112 min
A radiant Keira Knightley (Atonement, Anna Karenina) gives a career-best performance in this exhilarating, entertaining and timely film about the life of groundbreaking French novelist Colette, best known for Gigi.
In Belle Époque France, Colette’s marriage to Henry ‘Willy’ Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West) thrusts her from a simple country life in Burgundy to the creative demi-monde of Paris. A notorious libertine, fourteen years older than his naive country-girl wife, Willy encourages Colette to write (at times locking her in a room until she produces more). Publishing the results under his own name, he basks in the glory bestowed upon the hugely popular ‘Claudine’ stories, actually penned by his wife.
Theirs is a complex marriage, depicted with intelligence and subtlety, as are Colette’s relationships with women – including American-in-Paris Georgie Raoul-Duval (Eleanor Tomlinson) and cross-dressing noblewoman Mathilde de Morny, or Missy (Denise Gough), with whom Colette shared Paris’ first documented same-sex kiss on stage.
The themes of ownership, power, publicity and creativity are brought deliciously to life by Keira Knightley and Dominic West in this sparky, thoroughly-modern period piece. Knightley plays Colette as a sharp, unflinching heroine, struggling against the strictures of the age but never succumbing to them.