DIRECTOR: SAFY NEBBOU
CAST: JULIETTE BINOCHE, NICOLE GARCIA, GUILLAUME GOUIX, FRANCOIS CIVIL
BASED ON "CELLE QUE VOUS CROYEZ" BY CAMILLE LAURENS
REVIEW by SUSAN GRAY
However long ago the experience of loving obsessively but not well, the opening scenes of Who You Think I Am will bring that cocktail of boundless exhilaration and nauseous dread flooding right back. University lecturer Claire, played by Juliette Binoche, is telling psychoanalyst Dr Bormans (Nicole Garcia) that her story begins with Ludo. We soon discover Guillaume Gouix’s Ludo is Claire’s younger lover, who could not make his lack of intentions clearer if he wore a ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ T shirt.
But the beautifully played and resonant scenes between Binoche and Garcia are not setting up a mid life woman spurned melodrama, instead director Safy Nebbou presents something far cleverer and uplifting. To counterbalance Ludo’s froideur with her in real life, Claire decides to infiltrate his social circle online, in the guise of 25 year old intern Clara. D’accord, Clara is a hit with Ludo’s close friend Alex (Francois Civil), and a cat and mouse game ensues, as Claire/ Clara allows Alex to believe the relationship is escalating, without ever actually meeting his "amour". The energy it takes to maintain the virtual facade leaves Claire a husk, as she also tries to function as lone parent to two sons and university lecturer.
"Husk"and the beautiful Binoche are not words expected to be in the same sentence, but Who You Think I Am’s cinematography pulls off the impossible, as it shows us Binoche by turns radiant, and then so washed out. The film is also mercifully light on visual cliches such as baguettes, armoires and pavement cafes. Instead it portrays a contemporary France of skyscraper skylines, big screen lecture halls and constant movement.
The film’s structure is also dazzlingly smart, as point of view narratives are revealed to be flawed, and the stories unfolded in therapy, autobiography and reality collide. The life of the mind’s influence on our experience of the external world is strikingly portrayed.
Dr Borman’s gentle probing on why Claire makes the choices she does, eventually shows Claire’s actions in a far more comprehensible light. Who You Think I Am is an authentic portrayal of mental health, the therapeutic relationship and the challenges of navigating the digital world as fallible, flesh and blood.