Non-Fiction (3 stars)

Non-Fiction

Olivier Assayas's latest is a typically intelligent but disappointingly self-satisfied comedy set in the world of publishing

French auteur Olivier Assayas is frequently at his best with edgier fare – Demonlover, Carlos and Personal Shopper, to name but three. But this bourgeois comedy set in the world of publishing is a mite more conventional. Reuniting him with Juliette Binoche, his star from Summer Hours and Clouds of Sils Maria, Assayas constructs a tale of middle-class woes that can feel a little self-satisfied.

At its heart is a love triangle. Alain (Guillaume Canet) is a slick editor, while author Léonard Spiegel (Vincent Macaigne) is older and more behind-the-times. It transpires that Alain isn't going to publish Léonard's latest tome, a fact that soon riles Alain's actress wife Selena (Binoche). Why? Perhaps because she's having an affair with Léonard, who is also married – to political advisor Valérie (Nora Hamzawi).

Carved out in the most familiar traditions of French cinema, characters exchange opinions in rapid-fire conversations, whilst ennui strikes. Assayas may be leaning back on the sort of introspection that is the mainstay of Gallic filmmaking, but no-one can say Non-Fiction isn't at home in the 21st century. Some of the most interesting story elements involve characters concerned about the impact of technology on their lives, their professions, and even the written word.

Canet is an engaging presence throughout – showing vulnerabilities beneath Alain's calm exterior – while Binoche has a riot as a performer who is stuck on a TV cop show. Credit is also due to DP Yorick Le Saux, who ensures the heavily talky scenes stay alive visually. But, while Assayas is an intelligent writer, tackling issues of French identity with gusto, he has created a world that many will find impenetrably elite. For someone of his stature, this feels like a minor work.

Selected release from Fri 18 Oct.

Non-Fiction

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • France
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Olivier Assayas
  • Cast: Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne
  • UK release: 18 October 2019

Editor Alain (Canet) isn’t going to publish Léonard (Macaigne)’s latest work, which annoys Alain’s wife Selena (Binoche) because she’s having an affair with Léonard. An uncharacteristically conventional comedy from Assayas, with fine performances but talky and disappointingly self-satisfied.

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