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Portrait of a Lady on Fire(Portrait de la jeune fille en feu)

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France · 2019
Rated R · 1h 59m
Director Céline Sciamma
Starring Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino
Genre Drama, History, Romance

On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the 18th century, Marianne, a painter, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who has just left the convent. Héloïse is a reluctant bride-to-be and Marianne must paint her without her knowing.

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What are people saying?

Elisia Lopez Profile picture for Elisia Lopez

This film wasted no words, most of the emotionally significant moments being in stares, action, music, and (of course) art. While I’ve never been especially interested in period pieces, it was so refreshing to watch because of its focus on women and their relationships with one another.

Stella Rumble Profile picture for Stella Rumble

A really lovely look at the relationship between two women, the liberation they found through each other, and the restrictions they had to face apart. The beautiful cinematography along with the engaging acting make this a really wonderful and touching viewing experience.

Minh Bui Profile picture for Minh Bui

A beautiful romance told subtly and tenderly. This period piece owes its effectiveness to the centering of the female gaze - of the woman staring back at us as we stare at her. Celine Sciamma portrays her female characters with the kind of fierceness and power that is refreshing to see on the big screen.

What are critics saying?


The A.V. Club by A.A. Dowd

This is a quantum creative leap for Sciamma, herself a keen observer of behavior. (Her previous films, like Tomboy and Girlhood, were rich with character detail.) Time traveling to an old world seems to unlock the full scope of her passion and insight.


TheWrap by Ben Croll

Visually ravishing ... [A] piercingly intelligent treatise on art, agency and queer love in the 18th century.


The Playlist by Caroline Tsai

Sciamma ... has a magnificent capability for elegant prose that wouldn’t feel out of place in a classic novel, the kind of dialogue that simmers long after it is spoken.


CineVue by John Bleasdale

Not since Jane Campion’s The Piano has a costume drama presented such a gorgeous view of love from a woman’s point of view.


The Hollywood Reporter by Leslie Felperin

Assaying [Sciamma's] first period film, an exquisitely executed love story that's both formally adventurous and emotionally devastating, she sticks the landing like a UCLA gymnast in peak condition. It's so good you'll want to watch again in slow-motion immediately afterwards just to see how she does it.


Variety by Peter Debruge

Though this gorgeous, slow-burn lesbian romance works strongly enough on a surface level, one can hardly ignore the fact, as true then as it is now, that the world looks different when seen through a woman’s eyes.


The Telegraph by Tim Robey

Sciamma’s splendid, multi-layered conceit manages to carry equal weight as a love story and a manifesto of sorts for feminine art.


Screen Daily by Wendy Ide

Arthouse audiences will be intrigued to discover how Sciamma has channelled the fluid energy of her contemporary work into the more constrained environment of a costume drama. It won’t hurt that this is a strikingly handsome production which will be admired on a technical level.

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