Film Review: Non-Fiction

Oliver Assayas’ Non-Fiction is a witty and endearing exploration of life, truth, and publishing. The film is a most satisfying watch.

Author Léonard hopes that publisher Alain to take on his latest manuscript. Alain is worried about the future of the publishing industry in the digital age. Léonard meanwhile is concerned with the perception of his work, as well as his private life..

Focusing on a group of friends involved in the worlds of publishing and media, Non-Fiction explores multiple ideas about the industry and the contemporary world. The film is as much about these ideas as it is about the characters. That is not to say the characters are disposable; on the contrary they are well crafted and often affable. Yet writer-director Oliver Assayas clearly wants to explore various ideas with the film.

These ideas are introduced through the various discussions that take place. Sometimes these are one-on-one conversations and sometimes group discussions. Assayas is concerned with the digital divide, the effect of social media on writing, the public personas of politicians, among other things. What really becomes apparent is that Non-Fiction is about truth. The discussions on post-truth are resonant, and the filmmaker feeds this notion about the nature of truth throughout the entire movie. 

At the very beginning of the film, Alain and Léonard discuss witticisms. This is no coincidence; the film is littered with humour. Assayas gives several subjects a gentle ribbing, and even has a joke with his viewers at the end with a reference to the film’s lead actress. 

The conversations are frequently filmed in an intimate style. Scenes featuring group discussions cut back and forth rapidly, making viewers feel as if they are part of the conversation. Vincent Macaigne delivers a memorable performance as Léonard. His delivery is superb; he is responsible for several of the film’s laughs. Guillaume Canet and Juliet Binoche are as reliable as ever. 

Non-Fiction illustrates Assayas’ versatility as a filmmaker. A brilliant script and skilful direction make for an indelible film.

Non-Fiction is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

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