Sidonie Gabrielle-Colette was years ahead of her time.
Although stifled professionally by her husband Willy taking credit for her work, privately she lived a life of sexual freedom and honesty rare for the era.
She was bisexual and had an open marriage.
Wash Westmoreland’s ‘Colette’ manages to maintain a sense of heart and romance as it navigates the provocative nature of the novelist’s being; Keira Knightley is simply exquisite in the titular role that spans a near sixteen-year cycle.
Settling in France with her husband (a charismatically lecherous Dominic West) at the dawn of the 20th century, Colette and Willy both hope to find literary success.
However, when her gender prevents acceptance of her works, Colette begrudgingly accepts Willy’s proposal that they attribute her work to him.
Her literary creation “Claudine”, a semi-autobiographical account of her days growing up in rural France, is a best-seller.
Willy becomes a famous author and he and Colette a leading literary couple. Willy received not only credit for Colette’s work, but also the royalties.
Meanwhile, the couple had a simultaneous romance with a seductive American Southern belle, Willy enjoyed a tryst with a much younger maiden, and Colette explored a sexual relationship with a woman who lived openly as a man.
Structurally, ‘Colette’ may be a traditional film, but the sexual freedom portrayed in the film is far from traditional.
Colette and Willy embraced incredibly forward-thinking sexual mores.
As outlandish as the story is, the film never feels overtly gratuitous, and Knightley’s performance grounds this sumptuous looking feature that can’t help but feel incredibly modern and immensely timely despite its period setting.
Manohla Dargis of the New York Times said, “Mr. Westmoreland [film director of Colette] … wanted to make a liberation story.
“He has succeeded, at times movingly …. And of course, he omits much … but with a life this exuberantly full, how could he not?”
Colette is in Australian cinemas today (December 20). Watch the trailer below: