Let the Sunshine In
- Emma Simmonds
- 22 February 2018
GFF 2018: Juliette Binoche dazzles in Claire Denis's intimate and empathetic farce
The midlife dating game comes under the incomparable scrutiny of Claire Denis in this idiosyncratic and empathetic French farce which takes a dim view of romantic relations and skewers the pomposity of the artistic set. Wielding a wonderful sense of the absurd, Denis also creates an intimacy which leaves you vulnerable to her protagonist's pain and disappointment.
Adapted from Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse – fragments of philosophy from the perspective of lovers – it stars the magnificent Juliette Binoche. Binoche plays artist Isabelle, a middle-aged woman who's still powerfully sexy but unable to ensnare a half-decent mate, if you can believe it – a situation that's turning her into an emotional wreck. Through conversations with admirers and friends, the film explores her frustrations.
Isabelle bounces from one spectacularly awful dalliance to another. Her opening affair with a portly, bad-tempered banker (Xavier Beauvois, director of Of Gods and Men) sets the bar for romantic entanglements exceedingly low (typical pronouncements: 'I just got back from Brazil and felt like banging you'; 'You're charming but my wife is extraordinary.'). He's followed by an actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) prone to gloomy over-analysis and gnomic utterances, who also admits to a violent temper. Meanwhile, Isabelle's confidantes are by turns pretentious, jealous, bitchy and smug.
While legendary cinematographer Agnès Godard makes Binoche glow like a goddess, Denis and co-writer Christine Angot give pathos to Isabelle's plight and Binoche renders her achingly human with a multifarious, often self-deprecating performance. Together they bring out all the colours of love and rejection as we watch Isabelle move between bliss, trepidation, desperation and, most heartbreakingly of all, hope.
Screening on Sat 24 and Mon 26 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2018. General release from Fri 20 Apr.