On a book tour in Italy, art historian James Miller (Shimell) reads aloud from his newest work, "Certified Copy." In it, he argues that a copy of a work of art should be as valued as the original. Afterward, a woman in the audience (Binoche) invites him to her antiques shop, where a subtle flirtation begins. They embark on a day trip to a local picturesque village where they are mistaken for husband and wife. They play along with the façade and spend the rest of the day discussing art, philosophy and their relationship. Soon we begin to think they may be married after all. Did they really just meet? Or do they share a common history?
Kiarostami's first film to be shot and produced outside of Iran is a provocative mind-bender, saved from impenetrability by exceptional performances from the two leads and a subtle, cerebral script. Binoche, who won the best actress award at Cannes for this, is by turns radiant and vulnerable, while Shimell (an opera singer in his first feature) makes James attractive despite his contained, somewhat cynical persona. As much an intellectual puzzle as a cinematic romance, "Certified Copy" challenges us to gauge the authenticity of what we are seeing. The ultimate answer is beside the point; the questioning process — and all it implies — is everything. A conceit this interesting, executed with such flair, only proves once again that Kiarostami is one of our most gifted directors.