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Stars: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Denise Gough, Eleanor Tomlinson, Fiona Shaw, Julian Wadham, Robert Pugh

Director: Wash Westmoreland

A beautifully produced but otherwise ho-hum account of the early formative years of the famous bisexual French author (Knightley) of Gigi and many more, who gradually escaped from her husband's shadow in the early 1900s.

Born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a country girl, she is seduced by the libertine publisher 'Willy' (West), marries him and moves to Paris, where her lesbian tendencies soon begin to make themselves apparent.

For his part, Willy continues his lifestyle with a succession of mistresses: 'I can read you like the top line of an optician's chart,' declares his exasperated wife. 'But it's what men do,' he protests.

Justifying his decision by making a few spicy additions to her text, Willy publishes Colette's first novel, Claudine a l'Ecole, under his own name. The practice continues for several more (wildly successful) books, until Colette, who has by this time taken up with the male-dressing Missy (Gough), finally rebels.

When her husband cavils against her behaviour and the content of her stories, she castigates him with 'Since when have you considered scandal a bad thing?'

Knightley is forthright, if perhaps a bit too skittish, in the central role, but West's smug, blustering husband becomes more boring and one-note as the film goes on. The supporting cast, Gough especially, gets little chance to shine.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2017. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour (unspecified).
111 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 07 Jan 2019