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MOVIES: (LFF 2018) Non-Fiction - Review

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Non-Fiction is another winner from Olivier Assayas, with the auteur director embracing his more humorous side to tell a fantastic, and incredibly meta take on the world of publishing and its evolution from printed press to digital media and the world of ebooks. It's a rare film that feels so heavily dialogue based, and works as a film that tests the actors involved to the limits in a fantastic way.

The film has several well-rounded, imperfect characters that it brings to the table and it does so remarkably well. The interwoven relationships between the central cast don't feel forced and any drama between them comes naturally, not falling into clumsy melodrama that so many of its ilk tend to do. We are introduced to Vincent Macaigne's Léonard, a writer who is unable to write anything that isn't based on real events and as a result, due to his past affairs, it has created a potential source of conflict with his wife as it doesn't feel subtle at all. But that's where part of the charm in Non-Fiction lies, poking fun at Léonard and his flaws, who at the beginning of the film, has his latest novel turned down for publishing by his long-term publisher and friend, Guillaume Canet's Alain.

Alain, like Léonard, is having an affair, and the two characters both share one thing in common. They're tone-deaf to what their wives want. Alain's wife Selena is a veteran actor on a popular French crime TV show that brings to mind Spiral - she's played by Juliette Binoche, and the film uses her casting marvellously well. Something that drew the biggest laughs is when the film brings up the actor Binoche as being someone who could potentially be a narrator for one of Léonard's novels, when Selena is present at the time of the conversation. It's not quite an all-time great meta moment like the Bruce Willis scene in Ocean's Twelve, but it does stand out as one of the film's most notable scenes.

Often when a film especially by a seasoned director tries to capture the digital age it runs the risk of feeling out of touch or too aloof. The last thing you'd expect from Assayas for him to tackle something like social media, The Fast and the Furious franchise and Star Wars: The Force Awakens with care and authenticity, but he is a director who handles such a task well. It helps that his characters have all well-defined views and beliefs, which is one of the key moments of conflict in a film like this. No one character feels too similiar to the other, and they're distinctive enough to stand out, thanks in no small part due to how good the cast is.

Non-Fiction drew one of the biggest laughs from me in a while when Michael Haneke is was mentioned, and it shows just how good Assayas can be with his humour. Whilst the carefully planned narrative may be a little slow to start due to the nature of how many characters have to be introduced who are completely new to the audience, once it gets going, it really becomes engrossing and refuses to let up until the very end.

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