My Euro-art alarm bells were ringing with this one, considering early word about it only highlighted certain elements: a lot of talking, purposeful obtuseness, Juliette Binoche. And while the movie has all of those things, it’s also something surprising: impossibly romantic.
Directed by Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami, Certified Copy stars Binoche as a French antiques dealer who runs a shop in Tuscany. She attends a lecture given by an English author (William Shimell) and the two end up spending the day walking and driving their way across the countryside, engaging in intellectual parrying about the meaning of life and art.
It’s engaging enough – if lively discussion of Italian paintings and Persian poems is your thing – but then something strange happens. The pair begins to converse as a married couple, one exasperated with each other and unsure of whether or not their love has faded for good.
We never quite know what’s going on, and this slipperiness is part of the movie’s romantic allure. Kiarostami’s delicate compositions also help set the mood, including an aching moment in the final scenes that involves the forlorn shadows of a flock of birds. Most of all, however, there is Binoche, luminous and undeniable in her drive to keep this love, if it’s real, alive. Does she succeed? Like Certified Copy, that too will have to remain a mystery.