Non-Fiction review Juliette Binoche

Year: 2019
Director(s): Olivier Assayas
Writer(s): Olivier Assayas
Region of Origin: France
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: R
Color, 108 mins

Synopsis: An editor and an author find themselves in over their heads, as they cope with a middle-age crisis, the changing industry and their wives. (Source)

Non-Fiction is the hat trick in director Olivier Assayas’ latest body of work. Picking up where Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper left off, Assayas’ has again hopped genres but distilled converging ideas about society, technology, personal relationships and art. This film is heady and deep, yet playful enough to reference The Force Awakens and Taylor Swift. With an impeccable cast and even a few clever meta flourishes, Assayas has delivered a witty dissection of how our lives spill out of our hands and into the social ether.

Set within the Parisian publishing industry, the story centers around a bohemian inner circle. They are friends, colleagues and even lovers. As you can tell, this creates a volatile mixture of things sometimes best kept separate. And yet, for Alain (Guillaume Canet), Selena (Juliette Binoche), Leonard (Vincent Macaigne), Valerie (Nora Hamzawi) and Laure (Christa Theret), their challenges are seen as inspiration, pleasure, or even art. As these characters’ professional and personal lives collide and contract, they find themselves in a place of transition and confirmation.

Amidst the film’s dense philosophical musings, is a story of flux and crossroads. With his diverse set of characters, Assayas not only picks apart the synergy between art and life, but the effects of their consumption in an increasingly digital age. As each character is weighed with important choices, Assayas explores the cyclical exchange between professional and personal. He also poses the question of where fiction in art begins and where it ends. In its most broad strokes, the film creates a fascinating microcosm of characters who ore overly critical and aware about their art and work, but also clueless about the people who are right in front of them. This at times creates a farcical conundrum. At every turn, Assayas spins a series of intimate conversations into critical conversations about life and inspiration.

Non-Fiction review Nora Hamzawi

As the film is a candid series of thoughtful debates, it’s the cast that carries Assayas’  understated direction. He truly lets the performances speak for themselves, in turn allowing each character to push things forward. As Alain and Leonard, Guillaume Canet and Vincent Macaigne are perfectly matched. Though they come from opposite ends, they’re able to find a middle ground that helps us crack the film’s dense themes. Opposite, the women in the film thankfully aren’t just lovers or flings. They’re complicated people with their own agency and secret drives. This is none more apparent than through the eloquent performances of Juliette Binoche, Christa Theret and the wonderfully no-nonesense Nora Hamzawi. Playing Selena, Laure and Valerie, these women wield different type sof power and navigate each circumstance with confidence and precision.

Non-Fiction will be a little esoteric to some, but Assayas’ ideas easily stick with us. The film is fun and funny, using its dry wit to uncover genuine forms of unease and even complacency. Overall, films like this are far and few in between. Assayas’ latest is both conscious of the zeitgeist but also able to see a timeless, bigger picture about the frailties and truths that pervade the changing of times.