Who You Think I Am
Cohen Media Group
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Safy Nebbou
Writer: Safy Nebbou & Julie Peyr
Cast: Juliette Binoche, François Civil, Nicole Garcia, Guillaime Gouix
Screened at: Critics’ link, NE, 9/1/21
Opens: September 3rd, 2021
The Internet is a remarkable invention, one that has contributed tremendously to the ability of people across the globe to connect with each other. For all its positives and benefits, it also comes with dangerous possibilities, since, while certain systems and providers are continuously finding new ways to authenticate the identity of users, the average individual is neither as capable or inclined to do so. The anonymity that the Internet provides can be an extremely problematic and deceptive vehicle that entraps and devastates those all too eager to find a connection.
Claire (Juliette Binoche) is a divorced, fifty-year-old teacher. When her boyfriend Ludo (Guillaime Gouix) ignores her at his work, she hatches a plan to get close to him, creating a fake Facebook profile of a twenty-four-year-old woman she names Clara. She Friends his associate Alex (François Civil), who quickly takes an interest in Clara and begins messaging her. As their relationship progresses, Claire utilizes photos of a younger woman and begins to speak over the phone with the man who is falling in love with her. Though she is the one perpetrating this charade, she cannot deny the feelings that she too is developing for someone who has no idea of who is actually on the other end of the conversation.
This story is framed as a cautionary tale, narrated by Claire at some point after the events depicted as she recounts them to Dr. Catherine Bormans (Nicole Garcia). There is no context at the start for why she is speaking with a doctor and what has transpired to get her there. There is an element of mystery to the narrative, with Alex becoming more and more taken with Clara and audiences wondering how far Claire will push the illusion so that she can feel something that she hasn’t felt in years and which pulls her away from what she does have in her life, particularly her two young sons.
Binoche is a remarkable actress who has been consistently turning in formidable performances in French cinema over the past few years in films as diverse as Certified Copy, Clouds of Sils Maria, Let the Sun Shine In, and High Life. While this performance isn’t as hyper-sexual as Binoche’s work in the latter of those projects, there’s a similar sense of her character being far more astute and sensual than the rest, able to indulge in an invented relationship that, as she tells the doctor, didn’t just make her feel twenty-four but actually made her twenty-four.
As with any film that involves a great deal of lying, there comes a turning point where everything falls apart, and a protagonist’s nadir can also bring the whole film down with them. In this case, that descent proves fascinating to watch, and there are no easy answers offered about what Claire should have done differently or how she could have rescued the situation. Though the downfall may be inevitable, the way it plays out here is not predictable, offering a distinctly intriguing and engaging ride.
There’s also a thought-provoking presentation of blame and guilt inherent in this story, one that begins with Claire creating something fake with no express end-game intentions. Yet Alex is the one who makes comments about how young Clara sounds on the phone right after checking that she is indeed eighteen, painting him as the predatory one even though he’s being completely sincere, at least as far as audiences know. It feels like most catfishing stories involve older men preying on younger women, and while this film may not be all that true to life, it provides an interesting exploration of culpability and honesty that manifests itself in a gripping and memorable way.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+