Who You Think I Am had me at Juliette Binoche, and Binoche’s character, French literature professor Claire, had me at the mention of Marguerite Duras. Yes, this smart and textured dark comedy of manners-meets-Hitchcockian thriller deftly mixes Claire’s feminist viewpoint lectures about Duras, Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses with a deliciously twisty and topical plot about Claire’s dangerous dalliances on social media.
Claire, reeling from a messy divorce and a recent break up, falls into the trap of using an online persona to flirt with a handsome young man, Alex (François Civil). What seems a safe and harmless game, a way for Claire to play with who she’d like to be thanks to the anonymity of Facebook, quickly turns intense and erotic and then, obsessive and possibly dangerous.
Director Safy Nebbou’s alternately sharp and sensitive tale of romantic love and obsession in the internet age is layered with many twists and surprises. It’s held together by not only Binoche’s luminous, passionate, naturalistic performance as a fifty-something woman who feels invisible (and in one brilliant scene actually is) but also Nicole Garcia as Dr. Catherine Bormans, the psychiatrist who is her sounding board, provocateur and, maybe, savior. Their face to face meetings where the story unfolds in flashbacks are more than a rich device to propel the narrative and keep the audience guessing. It also gives space for two great actresses to engage in an emotional pas de deux, a wild rollercoaster ride that examines youth and aging; isolation and abandonment; and fantasy and reality.