Colette is pushed by her husband to write novels under his name. Upon their success, she fights to make her talents known, challenging gender norms.
Director: Wash Westmoreland
Writers: Richard Glatzer (screenplay by), Wash Westmoreland
Stars: Keira Knightley, Eleanor Tomlinson, Dominic West
“Colette” is not your rickety carriage ride back to a different time, nor is its inspiration, the French author who fought for her stories and embodied progressiveness in more ways than one, a typical protagonist.
Knightley plays 20th century women’s rights pioneer Colette with full aplomb. She valiantly introduces, or reminds, the world about a woman who was a true rebel when it came to sexual politics and a woman’s autonomy. In the film’s albeit slow first act, she establishes a complicated relationship with her hot-shot author husband Willy (Dominic West, excellently irritable), who she catches with other women but still stays married to him. When he realizes her ability for storytelling, they “collaborate” on novels about a character named Cotille, creating a success strictly under his name.
The relationship between Colette and Willy makes for a terse dynamic, especially when Colette starts to take specific radical steps where she learns of liberation. She has her own flings with women, she embraces her sexuality, and she soon fights to not be erased from credit herself. With all of these passions, specifically for a woman’s voice and her sexual freedom, there are of course moments where the film gets preachy. But Knightley is clearly such a tried-and-true entertainer in this story that she knows how to fortify the drama, while blowing people’s minds with a woman who defined wokeness in the early 20th century.
Westmoreland’s film has an additional grace with its usage of period details, in which it seems genuinely interested in the growing technology of the time. In small but colorful moments among its incredible sets and costumes, it draws the viewer’s attention to the invention of light switches, the evolution of bicycles, etc. As a period film that’s more than ready for 2018, “Colette” embodies the power of thinking forward in more ways than one.
– Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com