Written by Abbas Kiarostami
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimell
Opens August 26 at the Princess Theatre (10337–82 Avenue)
There are movies that we fall in love with instantly, movies that fall short of the hype, and even movies that we like in spite of ourselves. And then there are movies that we try to like because we think we should, because the film critics have hailed it as extraordinary — who are we to disagree? Unfortunately for director Abbas Kiarostami, his latest work, Certified Copy, falls under this last category.
The film explores the relationship between British writer James Miller (William Shimell) and a French antiques dealer (Juliette Binoche) whose name is never revealed. Miller is in Tuscany to speak about his new book in which he argues that even an original art piece is a copy of its subject, making issues of authenticity insignificant. After the woman arranges to meet with him, the two discuss Miller's book as they visit various areas of Tuscany together. Stopping at a coffee shop during their journey, they're mistaken for a married couple. From there on out, their relationship appears to change, as they begin to speak and act as if they are indeed a couple that has been married for 15 years and share a son together.
The most interesting part of the movie is the relationship between Miller and the woman, with its slow evolution from two strangers into that of a married couple. The transition is a subtle one, so much so that you might miss the beginning of it if you're not careful. Still, in a film that provokes more questions than it provides answers, this scene is one of the more clever ones and should be watched out for.
Certified Copy has everything that should deem it worthwhile: an interesting concept, award-winning performances, and beautiful cinematography. But when it comes down to sheer entertainment value and the ability to hold the interest of a viewer, it falls short. The film is slow, sometimes frustratingly so, and though much is said, not much ever really happens.
Regardless of the overall blandness of Certified Copy, Binoche's acting ability cannot be denied. She won the award for Best Actress at the film's premiere at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately, her character is as annoying as she is intriguing, and even good acting can't save her from coming off as unlikeable. As for Shimell — taking on his first role in a major film — he manages to hold his own opposite the seasoned Binoche, playing nicely off her character's insipidness.
Certified Copy is bound to stir up conflicted feelings. Ambiguous at best and forgettable at worst, chances are good that you'll still want to like the film; you'll want to look past the ambiguity and lack of action and appreciate the many finer points it has to offer. But most of us won't be able to. We shouldn't have to try so hard to do so in the first place.