Just months after the release of Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man, it’s fitting that French drama Who You Think I Am tells the story of an invisible woman, unseen by those around her until she takes on a more desirable online persona. Director Safy Nebbou offers a heartbreaking glimpse into the perpetrator’s side of ‘catfishing’ – the act of luring a person into a relationship using a fake online persona – and how addicting the desire to live another life can become.
Claire (Juliette Binoche) is a woman in her fifties who creates a fake Facebook profile under the name Clara. She intends to spy on her ex-lover, a much younger man named Ludos (Guillaume Gouix), who has unexpectedly cut contact from her. He makes it clear that he saw their relationship as purely physical and had no intention in forming an emotional connection with Claire. In doing so, she unintentionally gains the attention of Ludo’s friend, Alex (Fançois Civil), who is completely infatuated with the young and beautiful Clara.
We’re shown the ensuing events unfold through a series of flashbacks as Claire talks to her therapist (Nicole Garcia) in the present. Sometimes, these scenes feel a little jarring: you’re pulled continuously from the main storyline to Claire’s scenes with her therapist so that the matter can be commented on by someone outside the relationship. But, these scenes also allow Who You Think I Am to play out almost like a mystery. We’re aware that something bad has happened, and the scenes with the therapist tease this. The inevitable issue to be faced with conducting an online relationship is the desire to see each other in person, meaning Alex was going to become suspicious eventually. Nebbou and Julie Peyr’s script is chock-full of twists and engaging story-telling, bringing forth a film that is hard to look away from with so many shocking revelations.
As Claire becomes addicted to her life behind the screen, we’re constantly reminded of the draw we have to our electronic devices. The color scheme used in each shot is cold, a reflection of the lifeless blue hue a screen gives off. As Claire sits hunched over her laptop or phone in her flat, there’s usually a window in view, reminding us of the bustling world outside that she is shut off. Even as the camera pans away from the screen, Ibrahim Maalouf’s score merges with Facebook’s ‘typing’ noise. Gilles Porte’s stunning cinematography experiments with window reflections and mirrors in several shots, hinting at how Claire is beginning to struggle to differentiate between her real life and the fantasy life she has created online.
It all comes together to form a stunning tale of a woman, hidden from the world until she finally gets to ‘live her life’ through her online persona. The film touches on the yearning for affection and fear of aging. And for women, there are often double-standards around being in a relationship with a younger person. From Alex’s perspective, what Claire has done is cruel and creates the ultimate nightmare of online dating. But we’re also able to sympathize with her and understand the reasoning behind her actions, especially under Binoche’s spectacular portrayal and Nebbou and Peyr’s superbly crafted dialogue.
Who You Think I Am is a well-crafted feature with a great all-round display of cast performance, dialogue, story-telling, cinematography and score. Even when the film reaches a point when you think it can’t possibly carry the story on for another hour, it takes another turn and shocks each time.