On the way to accept an award for the director who made her a star twenty years earlier in his play, Maria (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) learn that he has passed away. In the wake of his death, a revival of the play is born, with Maria offered one of the roles. The play focused on two women, Sigrid, the younger role that Maria played to critical acclaim originally, and Helena, the older woman that Maria will play now. Maria begins to practice the role with Valentine, but finds difficulty in accepting her new character as well as finding her life mirroring the play, especially when she’s introduced to the scandalous young star Jo-Ann (Chloë Grace Moretz) who will be playing Sigrid.

It feels odd reviewing a film like Clouds of Sils Maria, since so much of the film is spent with the characters discussing the depth, or lack of, for the story of the play. Maria finds some readings of the play simplistic, while others feel she sees depth where there is none. Things run the same way when attempting to review the film, where some viewers may follow with ease, while others may see so much more to think and discuss.

No matter what side you may follow, it’s impossible to ignore the outstanding performances of Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart. Maria and Valentine could be mirrors for Binoche and Stewart, while Sigrid and Helena are obviously mirrors for Maria and Valentine. It creates this strange atmosphere that is mesmerizing, while also becoming a bit dizzying at times. The characters that Binoche and Stewart create are almost dependant on each other. Without Valentine, Maria feels empty and different. The same goes the other way. Together they are incredible, but this leads to the one downfall of the film.

Although not odd in terms of the story and what’s happened, Valentine is left out of the epilogue of the film, played out in three parts. Suddenly, Maria isn’t the same, and it doesn’t feel like we’re given enough time to adjust to this almost entirely new character she becomes. It’s fascinating to watch, but hard to truly enjoy after so many amazing scenes between Binoche and Stewart. While a much smaller role exists for Chloë Grace Moretz, she plays it quite well, although it never really fits into our image of what she should be.

Really, the entire film does this. Our perceptions of the people playing the characters are just as important as how these actresses play the characters, and it builds this strange mix of reality and fiction that swirls around the viewer.

Is Clouds of Sils Maria opening weekend worthy?

An absolutely captivating film with incredibly strong performances from Binoche and Stewart. This is a story that can go as deep as you imagine it, and viewers shouldn’t miss out on this truly wonderful experience.

Clouds of Sils Maria opens Friday, April 10, 2015 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Check their website for more information.

Clouds of Sils Maria trailer