The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman ★★½

This is so atmospheric and gorgeous, and the meta conceit of the premise is so fascinating, that I wish I liked this more.

It's one of those movies that falls victim to having a bifurcated narrative where one half doesn't get enough time, in this case the modern filmmaking half, which ends up feeling like window-dressing for a somewhat above-average costume drama, rather than the adept deconstruction of costume dramas that the first act provides.

The bigger problem, for me, is how ruled the plot is by toxic masculinity, and how uncomfortable the ending feels when a "romantic reunion" depicts and then glosses over overt physical abuse. The whole film is about a real human woman trying to find herself being othered and demonized by a patriarchal society, and the film seems to think it's giving her a happy ending...that just happens to still include her being victimized, just by the Main Guy Who We're Supposed To Like I Guess. It's uncomfortably free of self awareness.

This is more of a good idea for a movie than a very impactful one in any practical way - it's obviously coasting on the strength of its concepts. By the end, though, even the basic concept of the story doesn't seem like a very good idea.

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Leonora Anne liked this review