Colette review – A visual delight

Keira Knightley in Colette. Picture: Bleecker Street

Keira Knightley in Colette. Picture: Bleecker Street

The movie boasts lush décor, opulent gardens, sumptuous costumes and fanciful recreations of turn-of-the-century Paris.

Knightly shines as never before in the title role of Colette, one of the most important woman writers in French literature.

British director Wash Westmoreland’s elegant and stylish biopic recounts in great detail the private and public story of who Colette really was and how she got to be such an icon in her lifetime.

Her mesmerising tale is more than 100 years old, but the topics it deals with, such as freedom and power in a male-dominated world, still resonate today.

During her time, Colette became a gay icon in artistic achievement in the world of letters and stood as a proud symbol of the feminist movement.

Born a poor country girl from Burgundy in the late 1890s, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette had no dowry but was imbued with ambition to be a person of stature. She then met and later married Willy, played by the dashing Dominic West, a sexy and much older writer, and accompanied him to a new life of adventure in Paris.

She soon found, however, that her husband was also a literary fraud whose only talent was for convincing other people to serve as ghost writers on his stories.

Keira Knightley and Dominic West in Colette. Picture: Bleecker Street

With no interest in playing the role of “the little wife who stays home”, Colette embarked on a career of publicly captivating Parisian society while privately joining Willy’s coterie of writers, earning for him the money and success to pay his gambling debts and finance his luxurious lifestyle.

The books she wrote, known as the “Claudine” stories, became overnight sensations under the pseudonym “Willy”.

Colette is a visual delight. It boasts lush décor, opulent gardens, sumptuous costumes and fanciful recreations of turn-of-the-century Paris in the Belle Époque.

The leads, Keira Knightley and West, cast an hypnotic spell as a team and the intricacies of the story (written by Richard Glatzer, Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Westmoreland) are intelligently conveyed.

As a person, Colette defied gender roles until the day she died in 1954. She was a driving force on the road to Women’s Liberation and this movie captures every aspect of it with rare elegance.


Rating: ★★★★☆
Cast: Keira Knightly, Dominic West, Eleanor Tomlinson
Director: Wash Westmoreland
Classification: 16 LNSP

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