I’m still processing what Certified Copy is about exactly. The film centers on a man and a woman who meet in Tuscany. From the start we’re unsure whether there is or was a romantic relationship between them or not. At times it feels as though they are antagonizing strangers. Other times they seem the closest of friends, those who know one another so well that they know what to say and do to provoke the other as well as subside any anger that was provoked.
The gentleman is James Miller (William Shimell), an author who has just published a book on the value of a copy of art versus the original. The lady is Elle (Juliette Binoche), a mother of an 11-year old son. We learn that Elle is originally from France. She speaks Italian, English, and French. James is English. We learn that he speaks French in addition to his native language. It may seem odd to note the languages spoken by the lead characters. I find it odd too. But, when the movie switches between all three languages, even as the characters are in deep discussion with one another it’s hard not to notice and not mention.
Elle invites James to go out with her. The two meet and soon find themselves driving around the Italian countryside. Much like the movies Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Certified Copy isn’t so much about the plot but the conversations between a man and a woman. The twist in Certified Copy is who these two people really are in relation to one another. Do they have a history? If they do, is that history generally good, bad or indifferent? Is it all one big game between the two of them?
To speculate further on the relationship status of Elle and James is to ruin much of the intrigue. The film has much to say about relationships, life and art. I’m not sure that all of it registered with me but I found the performances outstanding nonetheless. Dialogue heavy but never boring. A mysterious movie even when you think you’ve got it all figured out. I know I’m still debating the themes and twists, which makes me enjoy Certified Copy all the more.