Personal Shopper stars Kristen Stewart as Maureen who, in her private life, is a medium but also works as high-fashion buyer for clients that hire her; the type of people who don’t have time to buy their own clothes and associated items. If you’re already unsure of what’s to come you can relax because that side of fashion and affairs is exactly that, something on the fringe of the story. What’s actually occurring is Maureen’s day-to-day struggle after the death of her twin brother and her fight with questions of an ‘afterlife’ that consequentially lead her to query her own reality.
While Personal Shopper could fairly be considered a supernatural drama, writer and director Oliver Assayas thankfully stays far away from the clichéd thriller that we associate with this world far too frequently these days. Instead we witness a fascinatingly spiritual drama that deals with grief, loss and misunderstanding in ways beyond the standard. What helps us along on this journey is a grounded and yet transcendent performance from Stewart who fully envelopes the world that surrounds her and takes us there.
Some films are designed to tell you exactly what’s going on and even guide you to what’s next, I found I was invited to think beyond what’s in front of me and this element is aided by dark, earthy cinematography in which director Assayas pulls us in by drifting through the scenes much like a ghoul. This feeling of disconnection is represented in the shots that follow her around the house we first find her in, when she’s weaving through the Paris traffic and even when trying on the dresses that she’s not supposed to. In essence, she’s a shadow of the ghosts she’s not sure she believes in and her lack of interaction with the fashion world helps to complete the circle of feeling like she belongs somewhere else.
Personal Shopper also raised a number of pondering questions for me, which included ones about the so-called afterlife and people who call themselves ‘mediums’ because while I don’t believe in many who sell tickets to tell rehearsed stories to people in grief, Science believes that we exist within multiple dimensions all at the same time so… could those things be connected? Could an extreme level of grief, or pain, or fixation lead to a belief system takes us beyond our own understanding? I cannot say it does, nor I can I say it does not because I haven’t been spiritually pushed beyond my own boundaries but Personal Shopper placed those demands on me and that inclination to look outside of here and now.
Overall, the key to the whole story is the performance by Kristen Stewart who delivers on all fronts as Maureen by being a believable, captivating lead that draws your attention to her every emotion. I’d recommend seeking out Certain Women to watch her continuation of her ever-expanding talent with different challenges. What Stewart does well, with commitment, in Personal Shopper means her experiences we witness become real and credible, which in a world that’s often either played out as horror or dismissed in the modern world is very hard to achieve. Personal Shopper is a fascinating story that instantly sits as a film you’ll want to dissect and talk about with others for ages afterwards and that’s a definite winner for me.