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Who You Think I Am

Released 2019. Director: Safy Nebbou

PRETEND TO BE ANYONE. GO AS FAR AS YOU DARE. What can’t you do on social media if you really want to do some catfishing and assume a fake identity? Nothing. And that’s the danger as you’ll see in this absorbing drama that makes you doubt if that new friend request you received on Facebook is real.

‘Who You Think I Am?’ is a question Claire may well ask herself. A divorcee with two boys, Claire is disturbed her new beau Ludo doesn’t seem to be on the same page in their relationship. So she calls herself Clara, posts photos as a beautiful 24-year-old fashion intern and befriends Ludo’s friend Alex on Facebook to keep tab on Ludo. Before long, Alex becomes smitten with Clara, as their chats intensify and a heady romance starts to spin out of control.

Will Claire come clean? How far will she go? Claire must have asked herself similar questions many times and evidently she is unable to stop herself. A literature professor in her 50s who teaches her class to analyse Dangerous Liaisons, Claire is intellectual and analytical, yet her emotions have overruled her rationality. Never mind she has been lying all this time. Never mind Alex is only as old as her students. There are no limits on age and experience when it comes to love and lust. Claire finds herself immersed in the excitement of desirability. All-consuming and addictive, a feeling she simply cannot let go of. So Claire keeps making excuses why she cannot meet Alex in person, while she looks at him at close quarters, standing still, aching to come forth.

The scene at the railway station when Alex looks straight through Claire as his eyes search for Clara is one of those moments that mark a movie as bona fide tragic romance. Two people so in love, so near their hands could touch, so far as not to exist.

Juliette Binoche finds layers in her portrayal as Claire/Clara. A defiant woman who tries to justify herself to her therapist, an insecure woman ensnared in her own dishonesty, and a weary woman racked with guilt. Francois Civil, always casual and ruffled, is charming and lovelorn in equal measure. No wonder Claire finds it impossible to say goodbye.

When Claire tells her therapist who Clara really is, we understand a little better what this masquerade means for Claire and how it relates to her broken marriage and her attempt at reclaiming the seductive power of youth. Claire’s sessions with her therapist not only decide the course of the story and what information is revealed, it serves another narrative purpose. Through the therapist’s eye we see an enactment of Claire’s manuscript, which culminates in Claire’s accidental death. She is the only witness to Claire’s attempt at redemption, told in a story-within-a-story style.

The therapist is no longer a passive role through whom the audience gets our information. Her final contact with Claire leads to an ending which is both urgent and ambiguous. Claire has the chance to right the situation, or she can continue lying. What you think she’ll do?

A little game gone very wrong, two hearts strung along, both broken in the end. Who is the real victim? Who You Think I Am is an emotional thriller for the Facebook age.

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