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Who You Think I Am: A French Near-Masterpiece

Who You Think I am(Netflix, French)

Starring Juliette Binoche, François Civil, Nicole Garcia, Guillaume Gouix

Directed by Safy Nebbou

Rating: ****

Who You Think I Am-no, that’s not a clumsy English translation from the French original—is about using the social media platform to transform yourself into anyone that the person you desire wants you to be.

Hence when Claire, a 50-year old professor assumes the profile of a nubile 27-year old femme fatale to please the 20-something fishy Alex(François Civil) we know there is catastrophe ahead.

In the way the Claire lays down a seductive trap for her own ruination Who You Think I Am is a haunting disturbing shocking and deeply wounding look at what the social media can do to rational minds. There are so many instances in real life of men and women assuming younger sexier aliases to entice unsuspecting victims on the internet.

Here the catch is in the heroine’s personality: Claire has everything. A wonderful job, good friends, two beautiful sons, a warm elegant home and at 50, she looks 40. Dammit, when you are played by Juliette Binoche, one of the world’s finest living actresses, you don’t need to worry about where the next miracle is coming from.

Then why this horrendous masquerade? Is it the sex? The idea of entrapping a younger partner into an erotic  relationship? It is hard to understand Claire’s motives which is what makes this film so fascinating and horrifying.

The question—WHY???!!!—hovers in the air till the end. By the time Claire’s subterfuge comes completely undone, it is too late to feel sorry for her. As played by the beguiling Binoche, Claire is a mess within. We have no way of knowing her motivations. But her moves are dangerous and…ummmm…sexy.

There is the risk of eroticizing the ruinous subterfuge. The film escapes that danger, thanks to the central  performance. Binoche brings a tragic doom to Claire’s destiny. She is so brilliant she upgrades the film from a gem to a near-masterpiece. If it misses being a masterpiece it is because there are too many thriller-like twists in  the plot.

The end-twist is not only avoidable but also unnecessary. This is not a film that needs to play games to invite us in. The director should have left those games to Claire and focused on what it’s is good at: showing a woman spiral into self-destruction on the kiddish social-media platform, and then continuing the virtual fantasy in her own mind as her shrink(Nicole Garcia) listens in.

So do we. For all of Claire’s growing years, we are all eyes and ears.

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