By: Jolie Featherstone

The latest film from Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper, Clouds of Sils Maria) is a classic comedy of manners imbued with dry wit and social commentary aplenty set amongst the bourgeois-bohemian Parisian publishing world.

In Non-Fiction, the lives of four individuals intertwine in more ways than one as they grapple with the changing landscape of communication, intimacy, and culture in the digital age.  Alain (Guillaume Canet), a suave and successful publisher, is at a turning point in his career as well as his personal life.  As Alain maneuvers his prestige publishing company through digitization, his attraction to the young digital expert hired by the company to lead the transition evolves.  Similarly, Alain’s wife, Selena (the always brilliant Juliette Binoche) wrestles with feeling unfulfilled in her career while also harbouring suspicions of her husband’s infidelity.  Meanwhile, she is having an affair of her own with their friend, and one of Alain’s published authors, Leonard (Vincent Macaigne).  Leonard, a rather bumbling young man, predominantly writes “autofiction” – thinly veiled accounts of his own life and sexual escapades.  He is fraught with anxiety as to whether his latest work will be published and what its impact will be.  Leonard’s partner, Valerie (in an excellent performance from comedian Nora Hamzawi), works for a left-leaning politician who is on the campaign trail.  Her practicality and pragmatism are often at odds with Leonard’s sensitive and unstructured lifestyle.  Non-Fiction revolves around these four, frequently exasperating, members of the Parisian upper-class art-scene as they pontificate their way through their insecurities.

The film sits solidly in the French film tradition of commenting on, and indulging in, the privileged lives of the upper-class, while also poking fun at their meandering and oblivious preoccupations.  Assayas delivers a glacial and biting kaleidoscope of conversations and observations over wine and delicious meals wherein our characters wring their hands and cling to the moving parts of their lives.  The original title of the film is Doubles Vies – ‘Double Lives’ in English.  A fitting title for a film that examines the oscillating states of connection and disconnection in the technological age.

Non-Fiction is now playing at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.


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