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Film review: Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Burning passion: Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and Héloïse (Adèle Haenel)


Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Cannes Film Festival ★★★★★

LESBIAN love blossoms in 18th century France in this film that sent Cannes audiences wild (think tears and standing ovations).

The love-and-loss story, from director Céline Sciamma, sees painter Marianne (played by Noémie Merlant) commissioned to create a wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) in her remote island home.

Away from the watchful eye of Héloïse’s mother (Valeria Golino), they grow ever closer, aware that an arranged marriage beckons.

It’s a deeply intense love story told with painterly restraint, but contains moments of gut-wrenching romance.

This has several ‘Why can’t I quit you?’-type moments and it’s great to see a female love story getting the Brokeback Mountain treatment.

While just as accessible as that film, Sciamma’s work explores gender, mythology and the female gaze, with a more intellectual touch. Inevitably, it’s a woman’s show: men are only featured in brief talking roles and the servant who keeps the women company is also female.

Also, this is a period drama that actually acknowledges the existence of, well, periods.

But it’s not just for a female audience: it’ll appeal to anyone who loves cinema and romance.

If you miss the crashing waves and sexual longing of The Piano, and think Carol could have used a bit more Call Me By Your Name, then Portrait Of A Lady On Fire will set your world alight.