Juliette Binoche is a movie-star for all time; seeing her pop up in fare like Godzilla is like seeing your local librarian at an orgy, something of a wrench. Binoche may well take the money and run when it comes to appearing in lame blockbusters, but at least she’s tireless in her attentions to home-grown cinema in France. Following on from last year’s Non-Fiction, Saffy Nebbou’s drama also has a literary bent; Binoche plays Claire, a literature professor keen to impart to her students the subtleties of Laclos and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. At the same, time, she’s nursing bruises from a fading relationship; there’s a few things brewing under the surface when she begins cat-fishing a young man online. His name is Alex (Francois Civil), and he works with Claire’s husband on photographic shoots in such far-off areas as Goa; Claire starts a long-distance relationship that’s built on lies and deceit.
Cruel Intentions, the Hollywood Laclos update, suggested that the internet was for ‘losers and paedophiles’; Claire is neither, although she is lonely, but social media is not her friend. ‘Social media is both the iceberg, and the life-boat,’ she tells her psychologist. But why is Claire telling this story to a doctor? How did Claire’s relationship with Alex end? This is a French film, so the answers are ambiguous, teasing, powerful when they arrive; there’s a devastating aerial shot of Claire in Paris that nails the drama when it finally arrives.
Who You Think I Am has plot twists that will automatically generate remake potential, but it’ll be hard to outdo the subtle feel that Nebbou’s film, co-written with Julie Peyr and adapted from Camille Laurens’s novel Celle que vous croyez. Claire is wrong-headed yet empathetic, and while she’s lured into the kind of distant romance featured in Personal Shopper, suspension of disbelief is only temporary, since Claire automatically plants the seeds of her own downfall in her self-destructive behaviour.
Who You Think I Am is modern, intelligent and thoughtful in the way in considers the impact of the internet on our lives; it’s proper cinema, keeping the audience right on edge, and allowing Binoche to give yet another revelatory performance. Films like this are to be treasured; they reflect deep and hard on how we live, and provide food for thought, giving you reason to pause as you reach for your online fix.
Digital download and DVD links below.