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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Who You Think I Am, directed by Safy Nebbou, is a fascinating adaptation of Camille Laurens’ novel about the lengths people will go to in order to regain their sense of self, after being betrayed by a partner. In this case, the story deals with a 50-year-old woman, the mother of two teenagers, whose husband has left her for his younger lover. To compensate, she takes a younger paramour herself but when that relationship goes cool too, she starts ‘catfishing’, creating a false identity on social media. Her dishonesty doesn’t just ensnare another person though, and soon she is caught on the hook of her own deception.
The film also covers the question of aging, an issue for women, in particular, in Western society where females become invisible after ‘a certain age’, considered past their ‘prime’. The opening shot hints at the hidden depths of the film’s subject, as it focuses on the partially submerged face of a woman in a bath. In a series of sessions with her psychotherapist, Dr. Catherine Bormans (Nicola Garcia), comparative literature lecturer Claire Millaud (Juliette Binoche) gradually opens up about her life and her alter ego, 24-year-old ‘Clara’. Under Dr. Bormans’ relentless questioning, Claire’s story, and the film’s trajectory, is peeled like an onion, revealing layer after layer of meaning.
Garcia is terrific in the role of the penetrating, emotionless therapist, the perfect foil for Binoche’s flirtatious, wounded character as a woman fighting the reality of middle-age. Plenty of wide-screen close-ups of the two of them during their sessions add to the sense of probing and digging, giving one the sense that there’s more to these meetings than meets the eye. There are also many shots reflecting Binoche/Claire’s face in computer screens, mirrors and windows, which add to the sense of her double identity. These sharp visuals by cinematographer Gilles Porte are accompanied by a wonderful score composed by Ibrahim Maalouf. Who You Think I Am is a sly, slow-burn of a film; part thriller, part Mills & Boon romance.