The trailblazing feminist writer Violette Leduc gets a biopic worthy of her complex life with Violette. Director Martin Provost (Seraphine) once again casts his sharp yet sympathetic gaze on an uncompromising woman artist, and once more he has crafted a plum role that allows a gifted actress (Emmanuelle Devos) to show the full range of her abilities.

Provost hones in on the events in Leduc’s life that most affected her writing – and vice-versa – in six elegant chapters. A chance reading of Simone de Beauvoir’s She Came to Stay compels Violette to embark on her own roman à clef, L’Asphyxie. And Violette doesn’t think twice about handing the completed manuscript to de Beauvoir. It’s the start of a friendship that spans the rest of Leduc’s life, and it becomes the nexus of Provost’s film, with Sandrine Kiberlain making for a wonderfully severe, unflappable de Beauvoir.

Provost is a small master of tact and restraint, and even when Leduc turns her own life into high theatre, the movie never overplays its hand. These may be the finest screen hours yet for Devos, who gives Leduc a caged-animal intensity.

Scott Foundas

‘a beautifully crafted and performed period drama’
The Hollywood Reporter