Describing the plot of this film is more describing an event which is going to happen but really takes little place in the film, it’s more the journey towards it; a journey towards Maria (Juliette Binoche) taking part in the play which launched her career, now as an older actress. This causes her to reflect on both her past and present with the help of assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) and young rival Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz).This couldn’t accurately be described as simple and yet it is definitely singularly focused on Maria, only briefly touching on the other characters in scenes which don’t revolve around her; which isn’t a problem considering the great job Binoche does of embodying a character in such a way where she appears stable at the same time as being highly vulnerable and insecure. That performance draws you in, without it the film would not work at all but it’s supporting performance by Stewart is a different story; though she’s received high praise for it and I confess to being a fan of hers, I actually don’t see the merit. Valentine is the very definition of a supporting character, and it feels as though Stewart works best when playing to that, her relationship with Maria is fascinating but when the time comes for her to show some emotion and feeling, it all seems very downplayed and metaphorical rather than literally on the screen. Moretz on the other hand is pretty simple, her role is obvious from the start and she does a great job but, though it plays a vital part in the development of the story, it’s not of high importance.
Despite a lack of excitement or a speedy pace, it does well to hold your attention for the majority of its running time, which is very much reliant on the changes and insights into Maria. At times it can come across as slightly pretentious, and could possibly alienate certain audiences but this is not a film intended for everyone to like, it’s more of an acquired taste so to speak. Regardless of that, the film is shot beautifully and if only the winding and rolling scenes of the beautiful landscapes could be slightly better intertwined with the actual story, other than in the obvious sense, it would be faultless. There is however, a lot of things that go unsaid which although may be intended to give creative license to the audience, in this film is a slightly irritating choice, in my opinion.
The film spends a lot of time on the events of the first three quarters of the film but as we get to the last portion it seems to quicken and skip from moment to moment without great fluidity which makes it slightly disjointed. To that point it also is somewhat of a disadvantage for an audience who after seeking the resolution to Maria’s current situation, the ending feels rushed and brief; definitely not a satisfying conclusion. That reason is also exactly why this film doesn’t receive a slightly higher rating from me, peaking interest far too early and letting things slip towards the end is rather disappointing.