PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE — THE CRITERION COLLECTION
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Céline Sciamma's lesbian romantic fantasy almost works on its own terms, but falters during crucial elements.
18th century French portrait painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) travels by boat to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) at an idyllic seaside estate surrounded by a community that consists solely of women.
Héloïse is bereft over the recent loss of her sister, and angry about her arranged fate of marrying a man she doesn't know.
Thus the table is set for a doomed lesbian tryst after Héloïse's mother leaves the women alone for a few days.
An abortion subplot, involving the mansion's servant, allows for a scene of artistically inspired exploitation that breaks the film.
"Portrait of a Lady on Fire" is Céline Sciamma's weakest film to date.
Rated R. 122 mins.