Portrait of a Lady on Fire

2019 | Drama/LGBTQ | 120 minutes | French with English subtitles
It’s the end of the eighteenth century and Marianne, a young painter, is commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of  Héloïse living on an island off the Brittany coast. Héloïse  recently left the convent in order to marry a nobleman. Héloïse refuses to pose for her portrait and is reluctant to marry. Heloise’s mother suggests that Marianne  pretend to be  Heloise’s companion and friend.  Marianne is then forced to observe Héloïse on long, daily walks,  memorizing her features. At night Marianne secretly works on the portrait. Marianne finishes the portrait but is racked with guilt that she betrayed Heloise’s trust and reveals her real reason for arriving.  When Heloise’s mother leaves for an extended trip to Italy, Marianne and Heloise become lovers. This intimate relationship ends when Héloïse’s mother returns. Marianne now must leave the island and return home. As she walks away from the house, Marianne looks back and  sees Héloïse in her wedding dress.
Noémie Merlant (Marianne) / Adèle Haenel (Héloïse)
Why Stream This Film?
There are only a handful of films that intelligently depict a lesbian relationship that is both intimate and compassionate.  Add stunning, award-winning cinematography, and universal praise by the critics, and you’ll have a film that must be seen.   
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 98%
  • Metacritic Score: 95
  • Cannes Film Festival: Winner, Queer Palm; Best Screenplay
  • New York Film Critics Online:  Best Foreign Language Film
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Cinematography (Claire Mathon)
  • Women Film Critics Circle: Best Movie About Women
  • Cesar Awards: Best Cinematography (Claire Mathon)
  • London Film Critics Circle: Best Foreign Language Film
  • National Board of Review: Listed, Top Five Foreign Language Films, 2019
  • Dorian Awards: LGBTQ Film of the Year
The film is about the erotic, electric connection between women when they find their desire for creative experience fulfilled in each other, but it is equally about the powers of art to validate, preserve, and console after the romance is over. Director Sciamma has created a tragic love story as enthralling as any in modern cinema.
Rachel Syme

The New Yorker

With PORTRAIT of a LADY on FIRE, director Sciamma takes cinematic magnetism to new heights and periods. But, above all, the film is its own, wondrous, magnificent thing; a complete artistic vision where every directorial step is refined and each thematic probe seamlessly weaved in.
Tomris Laffly


There’s a minimalism to the film—a few words, the spare design of the sets and costumes, the isolation of the characters—that makes every detail resonate. PORTRAIT of a LADY on FIRE is a bittersweet celebration of passion and art. You’ve never seen another movie quite like this. In its quiet gaze, love becomes art—and vice versa.
Moira Macdonald

The Seattle Times

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