The true story of the relationship between Violette Leduc (Emmanuelle Devos) and Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain) as they struggle to be honest writers, and gain recognition for women.
The idea behind Violette is an interesting one; Violette Leduc seems to have been a woman who struggled throughout her life; for love, for recognition as a writer and for friendship. To juxtapose her with Simone de Beauvoir then, is potentially fascinating, as it seems that de Beauvoir didn’t struggle for any of the above. The trouble is though, that Martin Provost, Marc Abdelnour and René de Ceccatty’s screenplay makes Leduc an incredibly familiar character; we have seen this struggle before in the life of Sylvia Plath and any number of other great women whose life was not plain sailing, so the challenge here is to make the story engaging and the central character relatable…
Emmanuelle Devos and Sandrine Kiberlain both give powerful performances in the film, and do immensely well with the material they are given. Their performances compliment one another, as Devos is wild and unmanageable at times, whereas Kiberlain is almost always restrained and calm. The rest of the cast is made up of Oliver Gourmet, Catherine Heigel and Oliver Py.
The fault of the film does not lie with the performances, instead, it the story is let down by a drawn out and familiar script; seemingly small moments in Leduc’s life are drawn out to fill the screen, and the big ones, the important ones, almost always take place behind closed doors. As well as this, the film suffers from feeling incredibly similar to the life of Sylvia Plath; a story that has been told many times over.
Martin Provost has coaxed fantastic performances from his actors, but allows the film to meander and drift without any sense of direction, meaning that Leduc’s story feels like that of an irrational and hysterical liar, rather than that of a woman who struggled to change the landscape for women in France.
In all, Violette is a film populated with great performances, and the potential of a great idea, that is let down by a messy script, meandering direction and too long a running time.