“Personal Shopper” is an unnerving thriller, a troubling mystery, and a very disturbing haunted tale that nearly defies classification. This is a dark film that explores human solitude and the unspoken, deep desires that simmer inside us and create a tormented inner turmoil. It’s a strange yet effective twist on the classic ghost story, a genuinely creepy and impressive film that’s guaranteed to be unforgettable.
Maureen (Kristen Stewart) spends her days doing a job she hates: picking out expensive designer outfits and extravagant jewelry for her famous supermodel boss Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). She is trapped in the superficial, shallow world of fame and fashion yet longs for spirituality inside herself — and from the beyond. Her twin brother Lewis was a medium and before his death, the two made a pact to come back as a ghost and attempt to make contact from the afterlife. For three months Maureen has been trying to seek out signs from her brother but has yet to receive any clear signal. Desperate for closure, she refuses to leave Paris until she communicates with him. Maureen is much like a ghost herself, trapped in a life limbo and obsessed with her steadfast commitment to communicating with her dead twin.
Eventually Maureen starts to experience some strange things, from mysterious running water in her brother’s abandoned house to flickering lights and slamming doors. Things turn even more sinister and increasingly aggressive when she starts to find scratches on the walls and progressively threatening text messages from an unknown person. Is this simply Maureen’s grief taking its toll by playing tricks with her mind? Is it a cruel hoax from a malicious acquaintance? Is Lewis really trying to contact her from the other side? (Or even worse, has she mistakenly stirred up an evil spirit that’s not her brother)? The film leaves you guessing the answers to the creepy mystery in a way that’s extraordinarily ominous and intensely suspenseful. This movie scared the bejeezus out of me, especially when Maureen’s own natural curiosity eventually turns to sheer terror.
This film marks another truly incredible turn from Stewart, who gives a performance full of deep sadness and furious intensity. She keeps up her track record as one of the greatest actors working today. This is her second collaboration with French director Olivier Assayas (the first being “Clouds of Sils Maria” in 2014), and they are proving to be a wonderful pair.
Assayas’ direction is purposefully gradual and deliberate, with a slowly unfolding setup that lends a chilling atmospheric creepiness. He manages to turn simple things like a flashing light, a text message, and an empty elevator into the most suspenseful, terror-filled things ever.
The film can be jarring in both its shifting tone and unconventional style, a strange mix of several genres that’s packed with some truly bizarre directorial choices. For instance: there are awkward fadeouts which at first annoyed me but then I could clearly see they were the perfect visual effect for the detached story.
The ending is a whopper and is one that you’ll absolutely want to discuss with anyone who has seen the film. It’s open to interpretation in a way that gives great meaning to the story, no matter what you make of it. This is a memorable work of art that’s genuinely scary, boldly original, daring, and smart. I really loved it, and it’s not a movie I’ll forget (or shake) anytime soon.