Portrait of a Lady on Fire
A dazzling, romantic romp involving two women in 1770 France.
Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) has just left a convent at the direction of her mother who has betrothed her to a man from Milan that she has never met. She is not a happy woman.
On top of that, her mother has commissioned a painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), to do a portrait of Héloïse that involves one problem – Héloïse refuses to participate. As a result, the two begin a journey where observations are made so that Marianne can secretly paint her.
It is these observations that begins a torrid, passionate love affair. Both Ms. Merlant and Haenel are magnificent as lovers who connect in unexpected ways. Their sexual encounters, helped by writer/director Céline Sciamma’s courage to film them nude, takes the film to a glorious emotional level.
The film also gains strength from the performances of Luàna Bajrami as the maid Sophie, and Valeria Golino as her employer, Héloïse’s mother. Sophie quietly helps the two lovers avoid detection while Golino intends on seeing her daughter marry regardless of her seething bitterness.
As you watch to see if Marianne and Héloïse must say goodbye, every member of the movie audience will embrace their commitment to the phrase, “I remember.” If their hearts break, pay attention to your own.