In Martin Provost's moving biopic, memoirist Violette Leduc (the fantastic Emmanuelle Devos) has a lot going against her by the standards of post-war France: She's pushing 40, she's the illegitimate daughter of a servant girl, she's queer, and, perhaps the worst crime in that or any other era, she's not considered especially fuckable. (As the opening voiceover reminds us, "Ugliness in a woman is a mortal sin.") Her work as a writer is championed by Simone de Beauvoir, and throughout the film's episodic structure she also crosses paths with Albert Camus and Jean Genet, but finds that literary success always seems to remain just outside of her grasp, particularly compared to the lush life of the pretty, popular de Beauvoir. History tells us that Leduc did finally get her due, but Violette captures the feeling of being talented but not able to break through, still living into middle age in a one-room apartment with noisy upstairs neighbors and your desk just a few feet away from your bed, writing truthful words that nobody wants to publish because you're not who they think you should be. And, in its sex scenes, Violette achieves a degree of sensuality with an older, plain-looking woman that was thoroughly lacking in the more traditionally "sexy" nubile teenager of Young and Beautiful.