Seven Days of Streaming

Seven Days of Streaming: The Dangerous Paradoxes of Kristen Stewart

From the awkward adolescence of Adventureland to the psychic strange of Personal Shopper, here's how to curate your own Kristen Stewart season at home in seven key films

ISeven Days of Streaming, we guide you in curating your own mini film season based around an actor or director with a particularly eclectic, underseen, or unappreciated filmography, spun over seven days of programming.

There is an alluring and alarming quality to a Kristen Stewart performance. The actress made a name for herself in Stephenie Meyer’s YA vampire saga Twilight, but since her final outing in 2012, Stewart has taken a hard left turn into the world of independent cinema, wrestling with frustrated and conflicted characters, bringing films to life in ways that feel entirely specific to her talent.

Feeling her way through accidental fame, forbidden lust, premature grief and fleeting euphoria, Stewart shines in roles that reflect a duality, a psychological paradox that must be confronted, if not overcome, to live with a sense of self-awareness, always in pursuit of an ultimate satisfaction. Does it sound like too much? Impossible for a teen queen? In seven titles, merely scratching the surface, let us change your mind as we get to know the impossible contradictions of Kristen Stewart.

 

Day 1: Personal Shopper (2016)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Perhaps the finest example of Stewart’s strength in subdued, sophisticated independent dramas, Personal Shopper gives the actress room to explore a character both inquisitive and frustrated, using a sense of detachment from one side of her life to furiously invest all of her energy into another. Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper indifferent to her job who is grieving the loss of her twin brother – by trying to reconnect with him beyond the grave. In someone else’s hands the supernatural slant could steer the story towards something zany and theatrical, but Stewart remains focused, communicating grief in arduous breathing and laser-sharp stares instead of with an excess of emotion. Tears are precious and memories are sacred – Kristen Stewart knows to not waste any of it.

 

Day 2: Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Another collaboration with French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria teases a potential that would fully bloom in Personal Shopper. The viewer’s attention is split here between Stewart and Juliette Binoche, as the two actresses wrestle with insecurities related to age, success, and desire, which manifest in sprawling duologues and plenty of mountain walks. Stewart feels somewhat playful here – the free and independent spirit that comes to destabilise Binoche's character. Reality is slippery: as an older, seemingly more successful woman finds herself in a personal crisis, this younger woman is also coming to terms with what she wants. One is lingering on the past, the other tentative about the future. Stewart is at war with her job and her feelings, pushing and pulling between subservience, reliability, and her own quiet pursuit of what she wants. It’s subtle, but never soulless.

 

Day 3: Adventureland (2009)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

With the gift of hindsight, it feels quite uncanny to see just how similar Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg can be. There is a form of pressurised introspection to both actors, of neuroticism that is sometimes erratic, sometimes seemingly calm – one that prefers to stare instead of shriek. It feels amusing, then, to remember that one of Stewart’s finest roles, somewhat bridging mainstream and arthouse storytelling, is as Em, Eisenberg’s love interest in Adventureland. It works, somehow, as both actors move past their own usual chilliness in order to display some genuinely convincing chemistry. As Stewart's jagged edges are made softer and more carefree, she is ideally positioned to open up Eisenberg’s world. She is once more in a state of limbo, both within and without various relationships, and the fine balance is struck with charm, with care, never with complacency. Stewart isn’t some blasé, tokenistic love interest – she too is awkward, confused, and coming of age. It’s a summer job to change everything, and she sells it wonderfully.

 

Day 4: Certain Women (2016)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Kelly Reichardt is a master of control, of quiet and wide open spaces that thrum with feeling without making a sound, and so feels like the perfect person to direct Kristen Stewart. Certain Women is shared across several characters, several women quietly fighting their realities, spun out of control by others around them. Stewart plays a young law student now teaching a night class she keeps trying to rid herself of. She only appears an hour into the film, and seldom makes a fuss when she does – patient, reserved, generous in terms of sharing what she knows but extremely careful in terms of letting herself go. Here, Stewart masters the mundane despair of a woman who has to prove herself at all times to be good enough to just go unnoticed – she has power and knowledge within, but never the confidence to act as if she deserves any of it. She has a job but no passion, her real life still waiting to be discovered. She is the epitome of exhaustion – but in a way that resonates and demands empathy, rather than one that merely fades into the background. But could she ever?

Day 5: Still Alice (2014)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

There is no denying the masterful, devastating work Julianne Moore does in Still Alice as a woman caught in the grips of early onset dementia – but as her daughter Lydia, Kristen Stewart balances heartbreak, insecurity, bravery and introspection with stunning subtlety. She shines opposite her more melodramatic sister Anna, played by Kate Bosworth, but still offers unparalleled loyalty and patience as her mother’s health declines. It’s often a selfless performance, listening and waiting, speaking the truth, when required, and only the truth. There is no sense of performative grief, of erratic or excessive effort – Stewart finds a way to communicate that sense of unease, of guilt, of uncertainty when your own life is up in the air but must go on pause when real tragedy strikes. Prickliness makes way for devotion without fanfare, always prioritising the impact, the care for a loved one, more than the intent of any action, what people might think of you. How Stewart gets where she gets is irrelevant – who hurts her, who tests her. It’s always the result, what she can do for others, that matters the most.

 

Day 6: The Runaways (2010)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

If Kristen Stewart was not an actress, I would hope that she would reroute her life to become exactly the character she plays in The Runaways – if Joan Jett didn’t already exist. As the seminal rockstar Stewart is note-perfect, a puzzle piece that fits perfectly into the rock band without stealing the show unnecessary, never intrusive or distracting. There is an earthiness, a sense of gravity that balances out Dakota Fanning’s take on Cherie Currie, and a sense of solemn angst that feels right at home in an era that forced the world to look at female musicians differently. In every part of this high-octane, unpredictable world, Stewart adapts, blends in, and experiences it all. She never panics, always flows with the party – but then sticks up for herself, for her art and her emotions, when necessary. Another colourful and dangerous lifestyle, a tightrope walked thrillingly.

 

Day 7: Seberg (2019)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

An exemplary case of a good performance in a less-than-great film, Seberg brings Stewart back to the biopic as the French New Wave icon Jean Seberg, whose political life is explored here more than any aspect of her acting career. While the film itself often loses sight of its protagonist, casting a distracted eye over a complex period in time, Stewart’s performance as Seberg is continually beguiling. Her body language is always curious and seductive, hungrily seeking out ways to exercise her influence far beyond the silver screen. She has fun playing an actress, toying with more theatrical eye contact and sporadic bursts of emotion than in more subdued roles. It’s often provocative and disorienting, as the stories told about Seberg, to Seberg, cause her world to spin – and ours too. But it’s a tremendous challenge for Stewart – proof once more that, as if we weren’t already convinced, there’s really nothing she can’t do.

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