Guts Reaction: Personal Shopper

Personal Shopper is a slow, mournful film about a girl who lives in two worlds and may or may not be haunted. It’s also way scarier than most textbook horror films.


Maureen (Kristen Stewart) has been staying in Paris with her twin brother Lewis, when he dies of a congenital heart problem which she also shares.

She’s a medium – of course – as is Lewis and they promised each other if one died they would give the living twin a sign. So Maureen is living alone in Paris, wandering around the wreckage of Lewis’s life – he had a girlfriend, a house and a project – waiting for this sign to come.

At the same time, Maureen is a personal shopper for an A-list celebrity, Kyra. Kyra displays all the worst kind of aristocratic traits associated with fame and glamour.

Maureen despises the work but at the same time she cannot resist trying on the designer clothes and shoes she chooses for, and delivers to Kyra. The film goes to great lengths to establish what a taboo this is.

I lived in Paris when I was in my twenties, and it was a haunted time for me too, albeit for very different reasons from Maureen. Seeing her scoot along the boulevards as the evening draws in and the lights of the cafes come on was just magical.

There’s also a scene when Maureen takes the Eurostar to London – I’ve sat in all those locations several times, and it gave me a shiver up my spine.

But there's a lot more. There’s a psychopath, who the film barely spends any time on, because actually psychopaths aren’t that interesting. What takes the fore is Maureen's terror, which is so real it reaches out of the screen in a way few conventional horror films manage these days.

One enigmatic scene plays on absence and is reminiscent of an all-time great in French cinema, Hidden.

Supernatural elements are handled conventionally – they may or may not be Maureen’s own emotions – but with great skill because they never displaces the real story, one of bereavement and coming of age.

There are many ways to interpret the end of the movie, but it’s still satisfying.

All in all, Personal Shopper is a wonderful film.