Well-to-do French journalist Anne (Binoche) is researching a piece on student prostitution for Elle magazine. She finds two women, Alicja (Kulig) and Charlotte (Demoustier), who agree to talk about their experiences in unsparing detail.
In Malgorzata Szumowska's follow-up to the little-seen 33 Sceny Z Życia, Juliette Binoche plays an Elle features writer whose interviews with teenage prostitutes (Anaïs Demoustier and Joanna Kulig) cause her to examine her own form of bourgeois servitude (marriage, kids). Binoche gives a fearless performance, complemented by the younger actresses. However, Szumowska’s insistence on staging the girls’ revelations as tastefully lit and largely consequence-free sex scenes serves to undermine her cause — always assuming she set out to make an intellectually exploratory, 21st century Belle De Jour, not an art-house exploitation film. Although intricately written and beautifully shot, Elles veers more towards the latter than the former. It’s a shame, when it could so easily have been a Shame.
Another bravura performance from Juliette Binoche glosses over the flaws in a soft-focused glimpse at the seamier side of student life.