UK | USA 2018
Opening January 3, 2019
Directed by: Wash Westmoreland
Writing credits: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Principal actors: Keira Knightley, Dominic West. Denise Gough, Fiona Shaw, Robert Pugh; Ray Panthaki
Why do women marry unsuitable men? The person whom Collette hitched herself to could have had ‘unsuitable husband material’ tattooed on his forehead, but she was infatuated with him, married him and their extraordinary story begins. It is 1893 and Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette is living quietly and happily in rural France. Willy (Dominic West) is the son of her father’s old soldier friend and he is captivated by the naïve young woman. He marries her and introduces her to Parisian society. Willy is a successful writer and man of letters but he is also vain and an unfaithful husband. Soon the scales are falling from Collette’s eyes. Willy is also always chronically short of money and he starts to bully his wife into ghost writing novels for him to improve his cash flow. What can she write about but her childhood and adolescent experiences? Soon the books she writes using Willy’s name become increasingly popular. The creative spirit which drove the woman whom the world knows as Collette is born and she will become France’s most famous female writer.
Wash Westmoreland’s movie is visually fascinating, he has captured the French Beau Monde era perfectly. Dominic West shines as the odious Willy and Keira Knightley manages to hold her own against his strong performance. There are many surprises and revelations in the telling of Collette’s story and these help to keep the movie audience’s interest piqued. Watch this movie and become absorbed in a privileged French world of long ago and see how a spirited and talented young woman can overcome the confines of her sex and time to become that country’s most celebrated female writer. (Jenny M.)