COLETTE: Another Keira Knightley Period Film

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, i’m just saying – COLETTE’S another one on a long list of them. Knightley has managed an entire career on period films and seems to do wonderfully for herself. She will get an Oscar for it one of these days. And if you need more than one, wait there’s more. THE AFTERMATH is also releasing in the New Year. Kernel Jack reviews this literature sexual drama, releasing today on previews for the weekend and with full release next Thursday 20th December in Australia from the fine folks at Transmission Films.

COLETTE is M rated and runs for 112mins. Enjoy Jack’s review and happy popcorning…………Salty.

COLETTE Keira Knightley and Dominic West image
Keira Knightley and Dominic West



Let’s talk about COLETTE for a second, okay? I mean, I was always going to talk about COLETTE, this is a review for COLETTE, but let’s start with expectations. This movie began exactly as expected. It’s the story of a lower class woman aptly named Colette (Kiera Knightley), who, soon after hitting eighteen, marries the love her life, Willy (Dominic West), a successful writer who hires ghost writers to help bring money in at a faster rate. When in need of fast cash, he asks Colette to write for him, which, as expected, leads to complications in their relationship. A lot of that is, for the most part, exactly what I thought would happen. 

But then this film takes a turn. In fact, it takes quite a wild turn. When troubles arise in Colette and Willy’s relationship, they both begin to cheat on one another in a sex-fuelled LGBTI supporting narrative that features the two characters making love to just about anyone who comes their way. It’s a scandalous, sensual, complicated relationship that, once it comes into play, elevates this film from ‘fine’ to ‘really good’ and adds further thematic depth to a story of trust, identity and how you’re viewed in the public eye.  It also begs the question of why we haven’t started putting unexpected swinger subplots in all mediocre movies. 

COLETTE Keira Knightley image
Keira Knightley


The true story behind COLETTE is adapted for the big screen by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who, between the three of them, are responsible for the likes of STILL ALICE and DISOBEDIENCE. COLETTE is very much in line with the subject matter, themes and central approach of both of those films. It’s a precisely plotted, to-the-point drama that skims through its decades-long story utilizing the best elements of these character’s lives and uses its period piece setting as a reflection of modern times and the prejudices we hold, utilizing art as the cover story. 

Kiera Knightley is fantastic as the titular character, paired perfectly with the arrogant but subtly charming Dominic West. It’s easy to criticize Knightley’s performance as being exactly the same as just about every single period piece she’s ever been in (and there are a lot… ANNA KARENINA, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, A DANGEROUS METHOD, THE DUCHESS, ATONEMENT… just to name a few), but it’s a layered performance nonetheless. Knightley has essentially made a career out of female led period pieces and COLETTE is a welcomed addition. Plus it’s quite the relief that this is a better film than her last outing, NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS. 

COLETTE Keira Knightley and Denise Gough image
Keira Knightley and Denise Gough


That being said, while it’s no NUTCRACKER, it’s no masterpiece either. The film takes a while to truly grip you, opening in perhaps the most uninteresting way they possibly could have, but as we begin to skim through time (choppily, at that), the story grows in interest. But when it reaches the conclusion, it doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying as the climax should’ve been. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it just feels like the unavoidable, forgettable and clichéd biopic conclusion for a film like this one, followed by your typical set of closing title cards updating us on the events that followed the film. It works, but a little more resonance would’ve been nice. 

COLETTE Keira Knightley image
Keira Knightley


COLETTE is an enjoyable, sex-fuelled story of two competing writers feuding for book rights, but at the same time, there’s nothing necessarily amazing about it that’ll draw you in and make you go “wow.” In an already crowded year for Oscar contenders, COLETTE is probably going to fall under a lot of people’s radars, but really, it’s a film certainly worth seeking out.


When he’s not spending an embarrassing amount of hours browsing through Netflix, Jack Dignan dedicates his time to reviewing movies of all genres and languages. He has done so since 2012. He also maintains a website of his own – – and ever since their interview, he’s been best friends with Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino just doesn’t know it yet. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.