Claire is a professor of literature who looks remarkably like Juliette Binoche when she takes her glasses off. We first meet her warily talking to her new psychotherapist after the husband of her old therapist had a heart attack.
Claire is not dealing well with the ageing process. After her husband leaves her for someone half her age, she finds a similarly young boyfriend. But then he stops taking her calls as well.
Her perfectly measured response is to create a facebook persona Clara, aged 25, using photos, and later videos, of her estranged niece. As an attempt to find out what her ex-boyfriend is up to, she befriends his flatmate Alex.
Chats with Alex become increasingly flirty, leading up to phone sex (and, in my screening at least, a couple of people leaving the cinema). So of course he asks to meet up. Which is a problem as Claire looks nothing like her alter ego. The results are sad, and ultimately quite tragic.
So far, so formulaic. It’s an interesting enough study of the alienation of modern online life, but the main dilemmas are nothing that haven’t been covered better by the various short stories that Claire teaches. But we’ve hardly got started yet.
Speaking of Claire’s dayjob, the film occasionally cuts to scenes of her teaching books whose plot is not dissimilar to what we’re watching. Les Liasons Dangereuses, for example, or A Doll’s House. The writer missed a trick by not adding the French Lieutenant’s Woman, as we are to be offered one, and arguably two alternative endings.
Claire literally thinks up a different fate for herself, writing a story for her therapist of what might have happened, had she met up with Alex. Not mentioning Clara, she commissions him to photograph her for a book jacket and everything seems to he going the way of Happy Ever After.
But then she starts to feel threatened by her own fictional creation and writes to Alex as Clara, asking him to meet up. The results are not the same as the first time round, but equally tragic.
We have a coda when we learn that one of the pieces of information that we’ve been relying on is not actually true, This leaves the way open for Claire to wreak more chaos in the future.
If you’re prepared to go with it, the film opens many more interesting questions than the most obvious subject of catfishing on the internet. Binoche is very good as the woman whose growing derangement is mainly the result of increasingly unrealistic expectations on women’s they get older.
I’m sure the Hollywood remake starring Lady Gaga is being discussed as we speak. If this does happen, caveat emptor.