On a remote island in 18th-century France, a young artist named Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is hired by a widowed aristocrat (Valerina Golinas) to paint her daughter’s portrait. Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) frightened off the last portraitist, so Marianne must pretend to simply be her walking companion, doing her solitary work at night from memory. But from the first thrilling moment they see each other, a mutual infatuation builds that proves to be as gorgeous, subtle, and self-contained as a work of art.
Minimalist French director Céline Sciamma (GIRLHOOD) creates a graceful and heartbreaking story filled with longing and beauty, where small gestures and stolen glances betray oceans of yearning. A revolutionary meditation on the female gaze, we are shown Héloïse and Marianne through each other’s eyes, where the very act of noticing becomes one of loving, and vice-versa. A timeless period piece with the emotional rush of a forbidden liaison, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE is a masterpiece of queer cinema that will resonate long after viewing.
“It could have been claustrophobic but the central story is so passionately involving you don’t want to look elsewhere at all.” — David Sexton, London Evening Standard