The performance of Juliette Binoche in Certified Copy -as a woman in love with the image of love and wishing she had it in her own life- won her the Best Actress award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. It is an honor well-earned. Her American English is impeccable, except when she stumbles slightly orating a slang term for sex, which is likely not something she would say as herself. One can hardly take one's eyes off her, for her character is so beguiling. But it's why her character is so beguiling that reveals the major flaw of this film.
The central premise of Certified Copy is that "in art, issues of authenticity are irrelevant, because every reproduction is itself an original and vice versa." How the two main characters revolve around that philosophy in their lives is supposed to be the story. I wish I could say that this movie was successful in selling me on this idea, for the story it presents can't happen with the characters in this movie.
The characters are the authenticity of any movie or it doesn't work. These characters in Certified Copy -authentic in and of themselves- are not a good fit for the events portrayed, and which are also authentic in and of themselves. Each set works, just not together. Just like the couple that Binoche and her co-star portray. The movie is thus a metaphor for itself.
Binoche plays an unnamed French woman living in Tuscany with her son, who is involved in some close but undefined way with an author named James Miller, played by British opera singer William Shimell. Shimell's character is cold and aloof and openly rebuffs Binoche's character repeatedly through snide comments and a wall of diffidence about her. Yet he is clearly entranced by something about her, something which he resents for its pull on him. The film never quite explains why they should be attracted to each other, but I was struck by how little they had to build a relationship upon in the first place. It is the nagging fact which ruins what should have been an entrancing tale of a couple who lost each other and is trying to get that special connection back.