13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Observant but weak,
This review is from: Certified Copy [DVD]  (DVD)
Director Abbas Kiarostami starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimell (2010)
French, Italian and English with English subtitles
Acclaimed Persian director's first "Western" fiction piece. Not bad but suffers from under-editing and frustrating lack of clarity at points. Wrongly billed and sold as a romantic story, this is the depiction of a failed attempt to reconcile a failed marriage, the surviving elements of which are shown as dissonant bells fixed to a single church tower (the exit image in the last seconds of the film). She is French; he is English and the delightful location is Tuscany.
We get a pretty good set of uncomplimentary adjectives used by the one spouse upon the other and vice versa: she is said to be sentimental, beautiful, changed: he is said to be gentle, stubborn, irresponsible, cold. What she wants is a man who lives with her as she wants a husband to do; what he wants is a marriage to his work and never to be there. He is an art critic specialising in forgeries; she sells reproduction cherubs. A bit obvious? Perhaps less so than the title itself, obliquely referring to the fact that this marriage has a certificate but no underlying substance: the husband says in terms " I do not want to have to explain the obvious to you" and, rather implausibly, quotes a Persian poem~
"The garden of leaflessness, Who dare say that it is not beautiful?"
Well, me for a start. It is one thing to spot the outward and visible signs of a sex-free set-up and the irritations that go with that. It is quite another to convey power of understanding and there is nothing here to show understanding as distinct from observation (doubtless why apparently many viewers cannot tell whether the couple are divorced or separated). They are very clearly neither and are mutually locked in an immensely strong compulsive symbiotic relationship where the woman's treatment of her son is barely distinguishable from that of her husband. He is far from cold - his passion is control and he enjoys torturing his wife with absence and watching her beg for intimacy whilst he asserts affection but clears off. And as for their final trip to revisit the hotel room of their honeymoon (which he claims after 15 years to have forgotten - Oh Please!), the inability to convey the lock between them is down to the director not the actors. He is good on self-obsession and poor on mutual obsession. The problem really is that the power or magnetism of the woman's position is not seen as central. No husband would put up with this much sickly tantrummy begging unless it were essential to him. And of this there is no apparent recognition at all. The emotional immaturity of the husband is all but invisible.
The actors do very well. Shimell is helped by being a craggy drop-dead gorgeous hunk (with genuine physical faults like his teeth: Hollywood eat your heart out) and Binoche plays too perfectly the slightly dim, strident shrew to be beautiful apart from momentarily in the bathroom mirror (needless to say this being the shot used for the cover publicity).
The photography is interesting but one feels that before shooting the story needed a serious critique and not just enthusiasm. A good but not great film.