Starring: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eldinger, Nora van Waldstätten
Director: Olivier Assayas
Running Time: 110 mins
Personal Shopper is a French film about a young woman working in the world of fashion in Paris who becomes involved in the world of ghosts, spirits and clairvoyance.
The word ‘atmospheric’ comes to mind when thinking about this film. It may not be the intensely cerebral and deeply fascinating work that Clouds Of Sils Maria was, but director Olivier Assayas does a brilliant job at creating an intriguing and very unorthodox story about the paranormal work like clockwork, and with yet another strong performance from Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper is indeed an engrossing watch.
The one thing to bear in mind when watching this film is that it’s not trying to be any sort of horror movie. A few scenes in the first act may lead you to believe it’s a supernatural horror, but in reality, it’s not all about jumpscares and creepy apparitions, but more about the strange and unsettling nature of watching a woman being haunted.
One of the most interesting things about Personal Shopper is that it leaves a lot to the imagination. I say that the main character is being haunted, but what Assayas does very well is suggest all manner of reasons for her feelings. On the one hand, it could be just that, a ghostly spirit from beyond the grave haunting her, but on the other, it could be her own personal demons that have created something even more terrifying. As the film toys with both ideas throughout, it makes for a particularly intriguing watch, keeping you invested in an unpredictable story right up to the last.
The other thing that this film does really well is grab you with piercingly intense silence. That may sound completely counter-intuitive, but an almost dialogue-free twenty-minute period of this film is by far its most enthralling. Following Kristen Stewart’s character exclusively throughout that period, Olivier Assayas ingeniously heightens the smaller and quieter sounds of the world against the lack of dialogue, making for an amazingly eerie feeling that contributes massively to the film’s bizarre and unsettling atmosphere.
Also, Kristen Stewart’s performance is once again excellent here. Although maybe not as good as her turn in Clouds Of Sils Maria, the one thing she manages to bring across really well is the sense of being deeply personally troubled. Her character is a fascinating enigma from start to finish, and her very quiet yet clearly vulnerable performance makes the threat of the demons haunting her all the more powerful, something that yet again adds so much to the unnerving vibe of the film.
With all that said, however, I can’t say that this film is entirely brilliant. Although I loved the direction and lead performance that made for such an engrossing atmosphere, the writing isn’t always on the same level. The greatest power from this film doesn’t come from the plot itself, rather the experience of watching it, and that means that when things are a little more conventional (particularly in the somewhat underwhelming first act), it’s not so engrossing to watch.
On the whole, I thought Personal Shopper was an impressively atmospheric and unsettling film. With some excellent and unconventional direction from Olivier Assayas, and yet another very strong performance from Kristen Stewart, there’s a lot that makes this film intriguing, although its plot isn’t as intelligent or interesting as I maybe would have liked, and that’s why I’m giving this a 7.4.