Sundance 2018 Review: “Colette” (2018) ★★★★★

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Can an actor improve overnight? Let me make it clear. I absolutely do not mean that the particular talent has nothing to offer before. Absolutely not! But when you look back at Keira Knightley’s precious work, you see how step by step she grew toward the role that we all anticipated. Now, I believe that we can say that with her role of Colette she has unveiled Keira Knightley that we all want to see from now on. There is one particular scene in the film – which I will not reveal for the fear not to spoil anything for the viewer – she delivers a long speech, through which we can see all madness, frustration, anger, disappointment and even the years her character has wasted. All of that we are able to read by simply looking at her face. That, my dear reader, is the performance we all have been looking forward to. What a start of the year!

The film takes us back to the 19th century. It is 1893, and Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette ties the knot with Henry Gauthier-Villars known as ‘Willy’, who is an acclaimed author and publisher. The marriage does not go that. He makes her write novels, which he publishes under his own name. Her first “Claudine” series turn to be very successful, which turns the only crumbling marriage into an abusive one. Neglect, infidelity, and most of all – the realization that it is the time to escape from this marriage that has not only been holding her back but destroying her from the inside as an artist.

We all have heard the words claiming that the world is led by men. Paris, back in Colette’s time, proves to be a place of complete discrimination against women, where their rights are violated. Colette is a brilliant novelist, who cannot publish her books under her name. And to be more precise, she has to be published under her husband’s name. Willy not only disrespects her voice but also cheats on her, bedding many other women. In his defense, he says that she has to understand that’s what men do.

To be fair, Colette is not so innocent either. Of course, she does ask for Willy’s permission to see her mistresses, for instance – Georgie. Even though, he permits her to have sexual intercourse with women, fulfilling her unrealized expectations, afterward, Willy beds with Georgie as well. While their open relationship goes on, financial issues arise as well. It turns out Willy has big debts, which puts him and Colette in a tough situation.

In conclusion, there are so many details to be covered about “Colette” directed by Wash Westmoreland. I think I will leave them unrevealed so that it is interesting for you to watch the film. Nobody likes spoilers, right? Still, one fact I want to underline. Colette turns into a writing and money-making machine for Willy. And that reminds me that we haven’t gone that far from that era when a man could hide his inability to create and remain unpunished for killing the voice of women in an undeserving way. Despite all those hardships, Colette manages to overcome her abusive marriage and to emerge as a leading and most decorated French novelist, who also earns a nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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