Fascinating as it may be to find yourself lost in a country you don’t speak the language of, Certified Copy attempts to make it look like a mundane experience. Finding love or a new lease on life in a far-off land is considered matter-of-fact rather than fantastical and beyond the pale. Maybe that’s why I engaged with and enjoyed this Abbas Kiarostami directed piece so much. It doesn’t shy away from the rather blunt, upsetting moments of romance, instead it makes sure to feature these front and centre, in as frontal and unnerving a manner as possible. Kiarostami’s statement of experiencing love with all the highs and lows thrown in is an exceptional, unique view of a tried and tested story of meeting someone abroad, falling in love, and attempting to overcome the cultural differences.
It’s rather easy to compare this to an aged version of Before Sunrise, where individuals meet by chance, with romance blossoming over time. Favourably comparing Certified Copy to the work seen in the Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy led trilogy doesn’t do justice to the work and craftsmanship displayed here by Juliette Binoche and William Shimell. Whilst not traditionally an actor, Shimell is surprisingly brilliant in his role as a middle-aged, lonely writer, currently on tour promoting his recent book. There he meets Elle, and the two, inevitably, begin to share romantic attractions to one another.
The pace at which this is displayed is marvellous. An engaging marvel, one that reels its audience in with care for the characters and a respect for the time spent by an audience. This blend makes for a refreshing course of arguments, lust, and plans for the future. We see two individuals go through the throws of time, an entire relationship expanding, imploding and revitalising itself in under two hours. It’s a fascinating, singular experience that knows exactly what it wants to do with its characters, and how it gets there is shrouded in creative articulation. It’s an incredible expression of human analysis, how relationships are formed and how bonds are broken.
Performances that feel so engaging and well-rounded that you’d be forgiven for thinking the portrayals from Binoche and Shimell are real individuals who have existed before Kiarostami put a camera in front of them. This immediate chemistry and subsequent drama crafts an appealing narrative, one that relies entirely on the charms of Elle and James. The strengths of the narrative and the performances within it are, by far, one of the best examples of realism and human relationships put to film. The natural flow of the story, the experience of its cast and crew, Certified Copy comes together in a gorgeous display of impromptu romance.