Later that day, he meets up with a French antique dealer (Juliette Binoche), with whom he decides to spend the rest of his time until he takes the night train out of the country. The film is comprised of long takes and deep conversations as they exchange thoughts on art, life and what it means to be authentic — all while we soak in the beautiful Tuscan landscape.
At one point Binoche’s character uses the term “intentionally aimless.” That’s probably the best way to describe the film, much akin to the Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy romances Before Sunrise and Before Sunset — though I’d hesitate to call Certified Copy a “romance” as Binoche and Shimell spend most of the film bickering like an old married couple. There were times when I thought they were the least compatible pair on Earth and others when they acted like the perfect couple.
That’s where the film adds the element of mystery and ambiguity to the couple’s relationship. When Shimell steps outside to take a phone call while having coffee, the barista asks Binoche if he’s a good husband. She plays along and says they’ve been married for 15 years. She convinces Shimell to play along as well, and the rest of the film follows in that manner.
We begin to question if they have in actuality been married for 15 years. The film doesn’t spell anything out for the viewer, but that’s the entire point. The only way you would know that a replica of a famous painting is a copy is if you’re told it isn’t the original. So to everyone this couple meets in the Tuscan village — from the young just-married couples they take pictures with to the older folks they consult to support their arguments — they are indeed a married couple. That’s what they project, so that’s whats real.
My screening had its fair share of walk-outs, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t drift into boredom at times. So know what you’re getting yourself into. The film is a bonafide talkfest. Fortunately, the majority of it is done in English. So don’t let that whole “Foreign Film” label deter you. Seriously, there are probably more subtitles in Inglourious Basterds than in Certified Copy.
It becomes a better film the more you discuss it and think about it. If Certified Copy is a date movie, it is far better served first in the “dinner and a movie” setup. I guess that would make it “movie and a dinner,” right? Anyway, it’s a rare romance that will surely fuel the mealtime conversation.