It seems like this is the year of returning filmmakers, and once again, Wash Westmoreland returns to TIFF with his follow-up to Still Alice.
Colette is the true story of Gabrielle Colette played by Keira Knightley and reclaimed all her writing. I hadn’t seen the trailer or was aware of the store, so I was excited to be unaware where the story would go next.
Colette follows the story of the French novelist as she gets into a relationship with Willy (played by Dominic West) who makes most of his money as a music critic and a writer. He would publish writings of friends, he would publish it under his own name. He referred to this as The Factory.
Willy “saves” Colette from her “simple” life and shows her a new world, and while debatably true, he’s still too old-fashioned for Colette. Or Gabrielle at the time. He drags Gabrielle to a very “bougie” event and she feels very out of place as she sees a bedazzled tortoise. Dominec West is really great at being very horrible. His character leans into the gross thinking of “men will be men.” An excuse that gets old extremely fast for both the audience and Gabrielle.
Eventually, Willy drags Gabrielle into the factory and writes a best-seller for him. What’s fascinating is how Gabrielle was so ahead of her time. Writing content for the biggest consumers: women. And then falling for a Trans man. Also, the sudden pronoun change for Missy is beautiful.
I’ve always liked Keira Knightley, but I think Colette is the best performance she’s given. On top of that, one monologue she gives is sure going to be her Oscar clip.
Colette eventually claims her name as her own, new and stronger identity. It’s clear that Willy thinks that she is defined by him, but that’s far from the case, and when she realizes that, it’s a beautiful thing.
Colette is also a love letter to writing, and the act of writing. About what it means to be able to a create a new world, even if it’s based on our lives. Westmoreland dedicates the film to Richard Glatzer, who was his writing partner and his late partner as well. Knowing this, the film makes sense entirely. It’s a writer’s film, it’s about the joys of locking yourself in a room and writing, but also going weeks without being able to accomplish a single sentence. Some of us know that feeling, and it’s clear that the script and Wash knew it as well.
It is a loving tribute to a great writer.