Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, celebrated French writer and gay icon, was not your average early-20th-century woman. And COLETTE is not your average period drama. Like the subject herself, Wash Westmoreland's film is energetic, fearless and unapologetically feminist.
We meet Colette (Keira Knightley) as a teenage girl in the Burgundian countryside, infatuated with Willy (Dominic West), a charming but much older Parisian publisher. When she joins him in the city as his bride, Colette begins to turn heads. Ripe for adventure and unafraid of her desires, Colette challenges the social and gender conventions, and sexual taboos, of Belle Époque Paris. Willy is all in—at first. He even encourages Colette to write as one of his "factory" authors, and the fruits of her labor, the Claudine books, quickly become a literary sensation. There's only one problem: though Claudine is Colette, she also belongs to Willy. Whether they're having sex, arguing about who they're having sex with, or debating Colette's writing, Knightley and West's chemistry leaps off the screen, capturing the attraction and the scandal at the heart of a tumultuous relationship. Though the film's period details are exquisite, under Westmoreland's elegant direction they are background to the woman at the center of this story. Colette's battle to have her voice heard in a patriarchal society is as relevant today as it was more than 100 years ago.
“Keira Knightley slips effortlessly into the evolution of Colette, showing the Frenchwoman who became the talk of belle époque Paris and a literary figurehead at a pivotal moment in her life and skilfully articulating her blossoming sensuality and self-awareness.” —Amber Wilkinson, The Times (UK) “We so often look to the lives of artists for meaning, but when dramatized they regularly end up being just another bit of soap opera. Colette’s life is deserving of nuance and care, and that’s what she gets in this film.” —Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian
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