At their best, movies suggest rather than smother, consider instead of overwhelm. The best films create conversations when moviemakers ask questions that we, as an audience, get to ponder. As moviegoers, we experience the magic of the medium when we can bring our own thoughts and histories to the situations the cameras reveal.
Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” may not appeal to people who prefer movies that fill in all the details. This look at how a relationship evolves over time between two women trapped in 18th-century convention avoids any temptation to scatter the screen with facts. Instead the movie suggests interactions that may occur between these ladies while asking us, as we observe, to connect these incidents into a cohesive narrative. By encouraging us to wonder why these women pursue this friendship, Sciamma insists that we invest in the outcome. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” welcomes us to a magical world filled with interesting women who impress with their intense need for connection.