WHO YOU THINK I AM

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Safy Nebbou

Stars: Juliette Binoche, Francois Civil, Nicole Garcia, Charles Berling, Guillaume Gouix.  

Juliette Binoche and François Civil in Celle que vous croyez (2019)

This intriguing psychological thriller serves as a timely cautionary tale about the dangers of social media and on-line dating sites. It comes across as something of a cross between Fatal Attraction and Catfish.

Claire Millaud (played by Juliette Binoche) is a middle-aged teacher and a divorced mother of two adult children. When she is dumped by her current, younger lover Ludo, she creates a fake Facebook profile in order to keep tabs on him. Her on-line alter ego is Clara, a beautiful 24-year old fashion intern. She makes an on-line connection with Ludo’s housemate Alex (Francois Civil, from Back To Burgundy, etc)), a handsome young photographer. A passionate virtual affair begins between the pair. Alex thinks he has met his soulmate and is keen to meet. However, Clara plays hard to get and invents a busy job and a jealous lover to try and keep Alex at bay.

The film unfolds in a series of extended flashbacks as Claire recounts events to her therapist Dr Bormans (Nicole Garcia, from Divorce French Style, etc) while undergoing treatment for some kind of trauma. Events unfold from Claire’s perspective, but she is almost certainly an unreliable narrator. The manipulative Claire almost comes across as a predatory cyber-stalker, and Binoche brings an air of obsession and desperation to her performance as the insecure protagonist. Although her character is largely unlikable, Binoche’s solid performance holds the attention and enables audiences to overlook the unlikely plot device that drives the narrative. That Claire is lecturing her students about the novel Dangerous Liaisons, a novel of sexual intrigue and deception, is unsubtle and almost too ironic.

Who You Think I Am (aka Celle que vous croyez) is an erotic thriller set in a technology obsessed age and raises questions about identity, and explores themes of aging, loneliness, guilt, obsession and deception. This is the sixth feature film for director Safy Nebbou (Bad Seeds, etc). His direction is assured, and he slowly builds up the tension as the film moves towards its climax. Nebbou and co-writer Julie Peyr (Jimmy P, etc) have adapted Camile Laurens’ 2016 novel and have worked in a couple of surprising twists that even hardened thriller fans may not see coming.  

Cinematographer Gilles Porte finds interesting ways to shoot Binoche’s character to emphasise her loneliness and sense of isolation. He also works in closeup for much of the times, giving us intimate glimpses into Claire’s emotional state and uncertainty. Director Nebbou also finds an intriguing way to film the online communications and text messages between Claire and Alex.

★★★

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