It is not often that you find yourself sympathetic to the actions of a ‘catfisher’, but the winning combination of French director Safy Nebbou, and veteran actress Juliette Binoche manages just that. An adaptation of Camille Laurens' 2016 novel of the same name, Who You Think I Am is a genre-blending thriller slash drama, centred around fifty-something divorcee Claire Millaud.
Claire, a mother of two, has been abandoned by both her ex-husband and, more recently, a twenty-something year old fling Ludo. It is her inability to cope with the ensuing emotions, and the blow to her self-esteem that spirals her into evitable self-destruction.
One night, Claire creates an online Avatar, via the use of a “random” girl’s image (it is strongly implied, and later revealed just how random this individual is not). Her name is Clara Antunes, a twenty-four year old Fashion intern, who has friended Ludo’s roommate Alex on Facebook, in order to spy on the former. What began innocently enough soon develops into a virtual relationship between Alex and “Clara” – phone screens, Facebook chats and comments and calls eventually consuming both their realities.
While an interesting study on character, identity, society’s addiction to their phones, and the intrusion of social media in our everyday lives, the film requires a significant suspension of belief to maintain credibility. I had trouble doing so.
Yes Binoche is in her mid-fifties, but her character’s intelligence (she is a literary professor), charm, wit and - despite her views - beauty, dredges up doubt as to her difficulty to hold men’s attention. I find her desirable for crying out loud!
And in this day and age of social media prevalence and catfishing horror stories, why Alex would continue this relationship for as long as they do, and become so infatuated with Clara, without never having met also transports viewers into the realm of disbelief.
Disbelief aside, though the plot itself is nothing ground-breaking, the film’s mastery of acting and technique make Who You Think I Am definitely worth a watch. Nebbou’s direction and consciously chosen shots successfully depict a woman who is both metaphorically and literally close to the edge. The woman herself, superbly acted by Binoche, carries the film, with her internal struggles somehow masterfully conveyed through sheer facial expressions; Binoche once again reminding us why she is such a veteran in her craft.
With plenty of plot twists and revelations to maintain interest over the course of this 102 minute film, this dark exploration of the human condition is sure to be one of the standouts this festival.
Who You Think I Am is showing as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival at both Palace Nova Prospect and Eastend. View the full schedule and purchase tickets from here.