British actress Keira Knightley is cast in the role of the French renowned novelist in this biographical movie, out in the U.S. on September 21, looking back over her nascent literary career and turbulent private life.
In 1893, despite their 14-year age difference, a young Burgundy girl named Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette marries Willy, an egocentric writer and womanizer. He introduces her to the artistic scene of the Belle Epoque in Paris and, after discovering her talent, encourages her to write on the condition she signs her works with his name. Drawing inspiration from her childhood memories, Colette writes her first novel, Claudine at School, published in 1900 under her husband’s name. The book was so successful that Colette wrote a series of other similar works including Claudine in Paris and Claudine Married, all of which became best-sellers.
France was soon flooded with merchandise inspired by the main character, such as Claudine soaps, perfumes, and collars. But Willy’s extramarital affairs began to take their toll on the couple and Colette found it increasingly difficult to accept the lack of recognition for her writing – works she did not even own. After long accepting her role as a betrayed wife and exploited, hidden writer, the young provincial girl finally liberated herself as a writer and artist, but also in her sentimental life. Her newfound freedom even created quite the scandal following nude variety performances and sapphic relations with women such as the renowned Missy, the daughter of the Duke of Morny.
Some may regret that a movie about one of the iconic figures of French literature has been filmed in English. But director Wash Westmoreland (whose film Still Alice saw Julianne Moore win the Oscar for Best Actress in 2015) has given Keira Knightley the chance to deliver one of her finest performances in the role of Colette.
U.S. release: September 21, 2018
Running time: 111 mn
Director: Wash Westmoreland
With: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Eleanor Tomlinson
U.S. distributor: Bleecker Street Media