Cliff’s review published on Letterboxd:
A study of drudgery, in which the titular widowed mother's everyday life is shown to revolve around a repetitive series of mundane domestic chores. The viewer is almost dared to watch the excruciating details of her cooking, washing, waiting in line at the post office, etc, over three and a half mostly very quiet, lonely hours. In what is surely an intentional strike against cinema's traditional male gaze, writer-director Chantal Akerman ensures that anything saucy that Jeanne gets up to while her son's at school (her income comes from a small amount of sex work) takes place behind closed doors, with no titillation of any kind on screen. Certainly not until you've eaten all your greens, anyway.
While I can understand why this is considered a feminist masterpiece, I can hardly imagine audiences of 1970s Women's Libbers cheering at the screen, shouting "Yes! This is what our lives are like! It's SO... BORING...!!!" Because several stretches of this really are like watching paint dry. And if that's not bad enough, a couple of scenes are like watching paint dry while a baby screams its fucking head off.
I kept thinking about how Nymph(o)maniac is a five and a half-hour film about a woman with a less-than-ideal lifestyle, and how much fascinating stuff that packs into its runtime. I also thought about how different this would be if Jeanne went to a junk store and came back home with a black devil doll from Hell. Well... this film does give you a lot of time to think about other things. Like when Jeanne reads a letter from her sister in Canada, who says she's sent her a present on the boat, and I couldn't stop thinking about the cadeau on the bateau. I was hoping it would be a gâteau from the château.
To be fair, about halfway through, Jeanne starts becoming visibly agitated about her crap existence. And that's what it is: an existence, not a life. And sure, maybe those Women's Libbers were cheering at the screen, shouting "Yes! We too have to fuck an unappealing man once a week to get some money out of him! (but in most cases it's our husbands, ahhh do you see?)". And yes, I do see. But surely there are briefer ways to make the point?