Whether J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens or Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, narrative films are ultimately a series of conversations. Olivier Assayas’ new Non-Fiction is one of those films where you can’t help noticing that it’s pretty much all talk, but it’s no less entertaining for that. It’s also something of a spiritual sequel to Assayas’ equally conversational 2015 Clouds of Sils Maria, right down to featuring Juliette Binoche as an actress worried she’s aging out of her profession.
The story, such as it is, involves novelist Léonard (Vincent Macaigne), whose new book has been rejected by his longtime editor Alain (Guillaume Canet), and without being aware that it’s a roman à clef about Léonard’s affair with Alain’s spouse, Selena (Binoche). Meanwhile, Alain himself is having an affair with Laure (Christa Théret), who is in charge of his publishing firm’s transition to a focus on digital formats, unpredictable as the market is. Assayas keeps the series of hangouts visually interesting by varying the locations, including frequent visits to crowded cafes where the world continues to spin as if the minutiae of the publishing industry were of no concern to most people. Your mileage may vary depending on how invested you are in the future of publishing, but for those interested in such things, Non-Fiction feels very real.
Rated R. Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.