Based on the fascinating true story of one of the most beloved French female writers of her time, Colette is the coming-of-age story of a young woman set in a time period when finding one’s voice and standing up for one’s beliefs as a woman was simply not that easy.
Married as a young girl to a successful French author and publisher Willy (Dominic West), Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) struggles as she is not allowed to have her books published under her own name and instead becomes one of her husband’s ghostwriters. Things become even more complicated for Colette when she begins to defy both her husband and social customs of the period by fighting for her own voice, but also by exploring her growing sexual attraction to women. As the film explores the themes of freedom and equality, it serves as a very timely and relevant contribution.
The film masterfully captures the spirit and atmosphere of the high society in France at the turn of the twentieth century thanks to its beautiful costumes and authentic sets, but also with the help of the two leads. Knightley delivers one of her greatest performances to date, while Dominic West proves well his acting skills, as he manages to deliver an oddly charismatic and strong performance as Colette’s controlling husband.
Despite its very solid execution, spot on casting and beautiful visuals, however, Colette falls desperately short in terms of its narrative structure, as it stubbornly sticks to the chronological order of events. This then unfortunately results in yet another biopic with no chance to stand out, as it offers nothing new to a genre that desperately needs it.
Although ultimately a very average film adaptation of an otherwise extraordinary true story, Colette surely has a lot going for it as both an educative and entertaining film with some powerful messages.