Neon has released the first trailer for its searing love story Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which hails from writer-director Céline Sciamma (Tomboy, Girlhood). The film stars Noémie Merlant as a French artist who falls for the female subject she has been hired to paint, played by Adèle Haenel.
Per Neon, the film is set in 18th century France where “a young painter, Marianne, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse without her knowing. Therefore, Marianne must observe her model by day to paint her portrait at night. Day by day, the two women become closer as they share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom before the impending wedding.”
Of course, the two women begin to fall in love, but must keep their forbidden romance under wraps. “I wanted to give them back their hearts, souls and bodies. This movie is not about wondering if such a relationship would be possible – it’s not, and they know it,” said Sciamma, referring to the taboo that existed back then. The director also cast two leading ladies who were the same age and height, explaining that she “was obsessed with this question of equality in love and friendship, which I think is possible in queerness and less so in straightness.”
Portrait of a Lady on Fire won the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival, where it also took home the Queer Palm, becoming the first film from a female director to do so. I don’t believe that France has announced it as the country’s official Oscar submission just yet, but it is expected to receive that honor, as it’s surely considered among the frontrunners for the Best International Feature prize.
Neon will release the French-language romance in theaters on Dec. 6. Watch the trailer below and let me know on Twitter if you think Portrait poses a threat to Parasite‘s awards hopes this year.