I’m not really a fan of romance movies, but the story of two lesbian women falling in love in 1770 was too intriguing to pass up. Members of the LGBTQ community have a hard enough time breaking the barrier even today. Imagine what that’d be like nearly 300 years ago. Members of this community also have a difficult time getting representation in modern films as some complain that it’s “not realistic”, so to see these characters set in the time period that was chosen is kind of a big deal.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire won Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay, and I 100% see why. Before the movie even started, the HIFF worker who introduced the film said he’s made fanfiction art based on the two main characters. Not only was the cinematography amazingly beautiful, I was completely invested in the relationship between the two women. Marianne is a painter who was hired by Héloise’s mother to paint Héloise in secret. Héloise refused to pose for her portrait because it was being painted for her future husband whom she’d never met for an arranged marriage. Among other reasons, Héloise is a bit closed off until she opens up to Marianne. Even the side plots and characters had depth and were developed pretty well.
For multiple reasons beyond the relationship of the two women, this movie is extremely progressive for the time period it was set in. This all-female cast film was just marvelous. There’s really not a single thing that I didn’t like. I never got bored watching it. The film was romantic, but it was also so raw and real. It had beautiful scenery, aesthetic coloring, powerful imagery and symbolism, and a great storyline. The imagery of the scene where the title comes from was especially strong. This movie was so good that I’m not even ashamed to admit it made me cry like a baby. I don’t think I would’ve wanted to end my HIFF 2019 experience any other way. If you have not seen it already, I definitely recommend finding a way to watch it.