Personal Shopper

Kristen Stewart is personal shopper by day, medium by night, in this mysterious ghost story from Olivier Assayas

Film Review by Ben Nicholson | 13 Oct 2016
Film title: Personal Shopper
Director: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Nora von Waldstätten, Anders Danielsen Lie, Sigrid Bouaziz
Release date: 17 Mar

Three little dots. There's little in contemporary society as adept at inducing anxiety as the pulsating ellipsis that represents a friend composing a response to a text message. It's ready-made tension that Olivier Assayas employs to exceptional effect in Personal Shopper, his slightly bizarre and deeply unsettling ghost story for modern times.

Built around what is arguably a career-best turn from Kristen Stewart, it’s partly an exploration of grief, but equally interested in identity and isolation in the world of technological proliferation; think ghost in the machine, but also ghost in the social media platform and ghost in the information age.

This mobile horror is most exquisitely put to use in a sequence in which Stewart’s eponymous assistant to a globe-trotting celeb takes her phone out of airplane mode only to receive a backlog of increasingly terrifying messages pouring on to her screen: "I’m outside", "I’m coming in", "I’m at the door". It’s a brilliantly executed sequence that utilises technology more cleverly than most horrors while magnifying the dislocation that it has enabled.

Maureen (Stewart) is a personal shopper by day and a medium by night, but her attempts to communicate with her recently deceased brother are rendered almost corporeal compared to the faceless messages left by her boss and the Skype conversations with her absent boyfriend. Stewart is exceptional in the lead role, her awkwardness a product of unconventional relationships and a woman looking for meaning whether in a haunted house or through the ping of a new SMS message on her phone. 

Personal Shopper screens at Glasgow Film Festival: 18 Feb, GFT, 6.15pm | 19 Feb, GFT, 1pm

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