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Review: Personal Shopper – “A stark, spiritual, spectral film”

Kristen Stewart (‘The Twilight Saga’) reunites with writer-director Olivier Assayas (‘Clouds of Sils Maria’) for their second feature together: Personal Shopper. The film also stars two other ‘Sils Maria’ alumni: Lars Eidinger (‘SS-GB’) and Nora von Waldstätten (‘Oktober November’).

Maureen Cartwright (Stewart) is a young American woman exploring an enormous old house in the French wilderness. She seems at ease there. But searching for something. And twitching at the home’s creaks and cracks. She silently stares and smokes, quietly investigating until we see something behind her back that she does not. It is a spooky and considered opening that sucks you into a story of Maureen, her grief and her search for self.

Maureen is a part-time ghost hunter who is trying to make contact with her twin brother who died of a heart attack. They were both mediums and promised each other that if one were to die first, they would return to give the other proof of an afterlife. It has been three months – and still Maureen waits for a sign. But even though she does witness paranormal events that could be attributed to her brother’s spirit – she does not want to leave or let him go. And even though there is a presence, it is unclear whether it is benevolent or not – or her brother.

Maureen’s day job is as a personal shopper for an actress named Kyra (Waldstätten), who is spoiled and selfish, barely inhabiting a beautiful apartment, and always keeping her maybe-ex and Maureen on tenterhooks. It is at Kyra’s house that Maureen shares a strange cigarette and encounter with Inigo (Edinger), and when she soon starts receiving knowing and creepy SMS messages, they could just as easily be from him as from her departed sibling.

Kristen Stewart gives another incredible performance in Personal Shopper. Haunted and captivating, the dark circles around her eyes deepen the further she is sucked down the film’s mysterious and ambiguous rabbit hole. Everything: people, place, time, reality and narrative, may be open and fluid in Personal Shopper, but Assayas is still in complete control – delivering a stark, spiritual, spectral film about purpose and pain.

Stewart is like an attention-monopolising black hole that you cannot tear your eyes away from, and Personal Shopper is an odd and excellent film that is full of enchanting ecto emo ennui that will haunt you for days.

Personal Shopper is released in the UK on the 17th of March.

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