Daniel Kibbe’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I'm afraid there's nothing very simple about being simple"
A stunning, enigmatic work. Like in the masterpiece he made 20 years prior, Close-Up, Kiarostami uses an economic approach to explore a wide variety of ideas. In Certified Copy he centers around two people and how their relationship evolves over the course of an evening - in some unexplained ways. Unlike Close-Up, which had an ending decisiveness, nothing is certain in Certified Copy: despite, essentially, having at least one of the two principles always in frame, their relationship constantly evolves and progresses, in a microcosm of sorts for an entire lifetime of relationship. It's a stunning, baffling approach that feels equally truthful and extraordinary.
Of course, Kiarostami crafts one of the most visualy beautiful films of recent years, but never in an overt way. On first glance, his camera moves naturally as it would in any drama, and the handheld framing, and simple shot-reverse shot set-ups are nothing out of the ordinary. But he uses these simple techniques to inform the relationship. Most stunning, I found, were the long set-ups for reverse shots, namely the one that opens the film, and then reverses to the crowd of people listening to James speak. As well as the scene in the car towards the beginning, where James remarks that they are "missing the view" and the camera cuts away from a lengthy, stationary two shot from the hood of the car, to a shot of the countryside, also shot from the hood of the car. Kiarostami also plays with reflections and windows, that same car ride has the buildings reflect off of the windshield, and overlap with the images of the actors, as they drive through the streets of Tuscany. In this scene, the conversation is mainly philosophical, geared towards James' book, which argues that a certified copy is just as significant as the original. Later, when the windows and mirrors start to reflect the characters, such as a scene in a cafe that James steps out of for a phone call. He is reflected by the glass door, and Binoche's character begins discussing him with the waitress. Later on the characters' self-reflection is explored directly through the lens, as they use the camera itself as a mirror, to adjust make-up and hair. And Kiarostami goes even further to suggest reflections of ourselves can be seen in others, as the couple's actions seem to mirror others. And, in one of the most excellent scenes in the film, taking place at a small restaurant in the village, Binoche's character sees a happy, young married couple from earlier in their day outside the window. She goes to say hi, and remarks that she cannot open the window. Perhaps, she is seeing her dreams, her ideal life through this window, reflecting her innermost desires. But she cannot open it.
I could go on about how Kiarostami uses the angles of his shot- reverse shot conversation set-ups to emphasize how the characters are feeling (angled to the side for casual conversation, but directly head-on for confrontations), or how the film's statements on copies and originals makes it, essentially a copy, but maybe not one of what happened on set, but a universal reflection of a relationship. It's an incredible film that is hard to unpack definitively, but it easily qualifies as one of the best films I've ever seen, if only for Kiarostami's beautiful, incredible handling.