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Kristen Stewart is excellent in Olivier Assayas's magnificently unconventional Paris-set ghost story

Amid all the shifting mirrored surfaces and hazy ambiguities of Olivier Assayas's bewitching, brazenly unconventional ghost story, this much can be said with certainty: Kristen Stewart has become one hell of an actress. The former 'Twilight' star was easily the standout feature of Assayas's last film, the slightly stilted study of actors 'Clouds of Sils Maria', quietly yanking the rug from under the feet of Juliette Binoche. Here, Stewart doesn't need to steal the film from anyone: she's in virtually every crisp frame of it, holding the camera's woozy gaze with her own quizzical, secretive stare and knotted body language.

Her performance is a galvanising human influence on the film, even as her character, introverted American-in-Paris Maureen, seems forever on the verge of voluntary evaporation. An haute couture clothes buyer and general dogsbody to an insufferable A-list celebrity – shades of 'Sils Maria', then, though Assayas is on a very different thematic path this time – practising medium Maureen is haunted, in all senses, by the recent death of her twin brother. Stalking his former abode at night seeking a final communication, she encounters a spirit or two – but whose? And are they following her, or are the insidiously instructive, anonymous texts that start invading her phone from another amorphous entity?

As Maureen's already fragile composure begins to fray, it's hard to tell if she's plagued more by absence or uncanny presence: even her boss is barely visible to her, leaving a trail of curt notes and messages in her wake. Among the many things that appear to be on Assayas's mind is the disembodied – and disembodying – nature of modern-day communication and social media, which makes ghosts of us all to those with whom we text far more than we talk. Perhaps no film has ever made the mobile phone quite such an instrument of tension: the on-screen iPhone ellipsis of an incoming message takes on a breath-halting urgency here.

For the preservation of enjoyment, no more should be revealed about the film's gliding, glassy sashay through multiple, splintered genres and levels of consciousness – except to say that Assayas, working in the high-concept, game-playing vein of his 'Irma Vep' and 'demonlover', is in shivery control of it all. And he's found an impeccably attuned muse in Stewart, who wears the film's curiosity with the same casually challenging stride that she does – in a key scene of sensual self-realisation – a jaw-dropping silk-organza bondage gown.

By: Guy Lodge

Posted:

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday March 17 2017
Duration: 105 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Kristen Stewart
Lars Eidinger
David Bowles

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

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Minki Winky
tastemaker

Kristen Stewart has rightly been criticized about having only one expression and this is a movie that allows her to practice it a lot! Don't get me wrong, I love her as an actress, and this film is quite different from your regular Hollywood movie. Thriller lovers who are into a bit of a mystery would very much enjoy it, but somehow it wasn't my cup of tea. 

Danilo Reis
tastemaker

This is a very enigmatic film. Not only in terms its subject but also because of its unusual, complicated narrative style. It is a very slow paced ghost story, although that is an oversimplification. The film follows an American woman living in Paris, who just lost her twin brother and is waiting for him to come back and show her that the after life is real. The material versus ghostly psychological play with the viewer was cleverly delivered (especially in the mysterious text messages exchanged on an iPhone) and Kristen Stewart seems like the perfect actress for the role. This is a complicated and visually beautiful film.