Film Review: Clouds of Sils Maria
Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart team up in the latest, slow-burning offering from writer/director Olivier Assayas:
Clouds of Sils Maria is a film which looks at death, youth, age, self-image and change. It is a character study set against the stunning backdrop of the Alps. It takes its time. The narrative deals with the dilemma suffered by Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) who, at the peak of her international career, is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years previously. The only problem is that, back in the day, she played an alluring young girl who drives her boss to suicide, whereas now she is being asked to step into the other role. This time, she is the older, vulnerable character while the young girl will be played by the latest Hollywood wild-child (performed by Chloë Grace Moretz). To prepare, she heads with her assistant (Kristen Stewart) to rehearse in Sils Maria; a remote mountain region.
The pace is slow. The scenes are as long and winding as the trails the two women walk. At times it feels self-indulgent, but there is nothing wrong with self-indulgence if the performances are as engaging as the two leads deliver. Binoche is stunning. She portrays equal levels of grace, humour, strength and vulnerability. Meanwhile Kristen Stewart is simply magnificent as her assistant. Her performance is so natural and so believable as she just bounces off Binoche. The chemistry between the two is outstanding and it’s hard to believe that this mature, nuanced performance comes from the same person that sulked her way through the Twilight franchise. The film is worth watching for her understated display alone.
The film is so layered that it’s hard to keep up with all of the metaphors within its scenes and, when the credits roll, you aren’t left with a feeling of satisfaction that all loose ends have been tied up, but that’s not what the film aims to do. Rather, it deals with the never-ending march of time and how we cope with it and find our place in the world. It’s a thought-provoking, interesting and enjoyable couple of hours.
Clouds of Sils Maria is out on 7th May.
Review by Bobby Townsend.