Foreign language films are usually willing to take an unfamiliar approach to subjects that aren’t always easy to tackle in real life. It’s one of the things that I’ve always appreciated when talking about films from outside of America even when they’re not fantastic. A movie like Non-Fiction proved to be no different as it mostly tackles infidelity in a way that’s tempered, mature and seemingly honest.
As seen in this movie hailing from France, infidelity and even just various sexual affairs can be both complicated and simple at the same time. They can also make for titillating stories that can make money. That’s where a writer (Vincent Macaigne) finds himself as he takes his own flings and turns them into works of fiction. This has worked in the past for him, but his latest novel risks revealing the affair he’s having with the wife (Juliette Binoche) of his long-time editor.
It took me about 15 minutes to settle into Non-Fiction. That’s mainly due to there being so much dialogue in the earliest stages. This isn’t always an issue, but in this instance since this also meant there would be plenty of subtitles to keep up with due to it obviously being in French. I enjoy watching foreign language films, but it gets a bit hard here because the dialogue is constant, quick and almost non-stop during this period.
It gets to the point where you may have a difficult time actually looking at the characters since you’ll be so busy reading what’s being said. When this is happening, there are very few moments where you’re able to take in anything visually as the characters deliver long lines of dialogue and never hesitate to jump right in for their chance to talk immediately after another character finishes up. There’s almost no time in between as they hurry on to the next lines of dialogue.
This happens after the first 15 minutes as well, but it’s not as frequent as the heavy use of verbiage manages to calm down a bit allowing us to just watch what’s being shown to us on-screen more often. It was an odd way to start a movie, but I’m ultimately glad I was able to get through these scenes. Once you make it through, you’ll be able to see that you’re being given a solid movie with quality acting.
Non-Fiction touches on a few different subjects, but the main one, of course, is infidelity. The way they handle this is quite unique compared to what we usually get in the U.S. Because we’re watching characters “in the moment,” we get more of a judgment-free reaction to much of what’s going on. It doesn’t feel as if we’re spying on them or that they’re always sneaking around. We’re essentially watching these people during private moments.
This makes it easy for viewers to look at what’s going on as we also wonder how it could all come to a conclusion. It also gives us the opportunity to analyze the relationships that exist as we see these characters behaving like humans. This is why I see this as being a mature feature about what could be perceived as a “touchy” subject. Unlike American movies about stuff like this, Non-Fiction isn’t trying to teach us anything or tell us how we should feel.
As a result, nothing here is really ever sensationalized or too emotional. A harsher approach could have been used throughout the movie, but it may have taken away from the overall style and tone of the film. Because of the way it’s directed, everything moves at a measured pace. This allows it to be comedic to some extent while also not making the movie an overall indictment on the characters.
As far as the story, I would have preferred it if they had gone a little deeper. I think there was still a way to keep the style they have while also getting into some of the more sensitive details. Either way, I finished this feeling that it was a fine movie all around. It struggles a bit at the start due to the non-stop dialogue, but Non-Fiction ends up being the type of good little flick that mature audiences will end up liking.
Director: Olivier Assayas
Film Length: 107 minutes
Release Date: May 17th, 2019
Distributor: Sundance Selects (U.S.)
- Score - 7/107/10