By Chris Nashawaty
May 01, 2019 at 02:23 PM EDT
Courtesy of TIFF

Dialing back the more enigmatic elements of his previous two films (Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper), Olivier Assayas’ sharp, sly new film is almost old-fashioned in its narrative straightforwardness. It’s an unexpected and not entirely unwelcome change of pace from the director.

Hearkening back to an era of French cinema loaded with literate dialogue and spiced with a soupçon of infidelity, Non-Fiction stars Guillaume Canet and Juliette Binoche as Alain and Selena — a middle-aged Parisian couple wrestling with their desires inside and outside of their marriage.

Set against the backdrop of the evolve-or-die 21st-century publishing industry in which Alain works as a book editor, the film opens up beyond its world of relaxed bohemian dinner parties full of drinking and debating to examine what keeps this couple together…and what may eventually tear them apart.

Vincent Macaigne is charmingly cranky as a disheveled novelist who gets entangled in a Twitter-mob controversy (as well as in Alain and Selena’s relationship), and Nora Hamzawi is as vulnerable as an exposed nerve as his put-upon partner.

In the end, Non-Fiction is a warm, humane story that ends on a hopeful note reminiscent of Hannah and Her Sisters. Life can be a messy business, but every so often it reveals moments of unexpected joy with perfect clarity. B+

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