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Certified Copy

Certified Copy (2).jpg

The Second Half Cannot be Certified

By Amir Faress • 12/25/19

“[The barista] mistook you for my husband, and I did not correct her,” Ellie says to her date, James, who had briefly stepped out of the coffee shop to answer a call. The two subsequently stay in character for the rest of the film, play-acting a married couple “celebrating” the fifteenth anniversary of their loveless marriage, the impetus being an earlier discussion on whether a “copy” could be as good as an “original” – a running theme throughout the film.

As the ending titles roll on, the audience is confronted with the following question: Which half of the film was “real,” the first half or the second? Were James and Ellie a husband and wife who pretended not to know one another in the first half of the film or were they strangers pretending to be a married couple in the second half?

The first scenario is easily refutable. Early in the film, Ellie’s son refers to James in the manner one would refer to a stranger. In the same conversation, the son also suggests Ellie has a crush on James. This exchange rules out any possibility of the two being a married couple pretending not to know one another in the first half. This leaves us with only one reasonable conclusion: the second half was an act (a “certified copy”) while the first half was real. In other words, the two were just pretending to be a married couple in the second half.

This interpretation would make sense if not for one major flaw, which undermines the entire premise.

During the exchange with the barista, Ellie confides that her husband is not always emotionally tuned in, adhering to self-imposed disciplines such as shaving every other day – not even making an exception on his wedding day, which happened to be a no-shave day. It is important to note that this exchange took place outside of James’s presence, and he never heard about it later from Ellie.

Toward the end, as the couple is about to revisit the room where they supposedly stayed on their wedding night, Ellie comments that James did not bother to shave for their milestone fifteenth anniversary. James responds in the exact manner Ellie had recalled her husband responding on their wedding day, saying he shaves only every other day. Ellie is not one bit surprised by James’s response. She nods saying, “I know” – as in ‘what could one expect from a man who didn’t shave on his wedding day?’

Remember: James was not privy to the conversation between Ellie and the barista. The line, “I shave every other day,” leaves virtually no doubt as to James being the same person referenced earlier in Ellie’s conversation with the barista. In other words, Ellie and James are indeed a husband and wife – to read it any other way would be to stretch the bounds of probability and common sense.

So are we to conclude that the second half was real and the first half was fake? The two were a married couple after all? Any interpretation along these lines is rubbished by the exchange between Ellie and her son early in the film.

Put simply, neither scenario makes logical sense.

The second half was to be a “copy” as seamless and authentic as the “original.” And if not for one blunder (the shaving line), it came extraordinarily close. As it stands, however, it cannot pass for a “certified copy.”

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