Tuesday, 16 November 2010

LEAVING reviewed

What film reviews have in common with buses, at least in this blog? Simply, you wait for one for ages, and when they come, they do so in three. If you did not see Leaving when was exhibited out there in the big bad (or good) world, then you are for a treat in your cosy homes as Metrodome Distribution is releasing the DVD in the UK on November 29th, 2010.

Kristin Scott Thomas pulls a magnificent performance as Suzanne, a middle age British woman supposedly “happily” married to a French doctor based in Nîmes, near the border with Spain. French veteran actor Yvan Attal portrays Samuel’s intensity, despair, humiliation, contempt and a desire for revenge when Suzanne leaves him for a younger man, Iván, a Spanish labourer hired to convert a unused outbuilding into a physiotherapy treatment room, as she desires to return to work after an absence of fifteen years (the kids will soon fly the nest).

As you may have deduced from the above, Catherine Corsini’s film reverses the usual stereotype of the husband leaving in pursuit of a younger model as Suzanne is the one who leaves the conjugal home, partly because she is tired of the daily routine of cleaning, making sure that the kids are ready for school, and cooking (just to face their moans as she dared to serve chicken twice in a day!). Iván, charmingly played by Sergi López, offers her the last chance to be a full and complete woman once again, of feeling as a fifteen year old girl once more, of getting out of a daily routine which can only be described as managed terminal decline.

In this sense, Leaving can not only be described as a feminist film, in so far as the stereotype of middle age man leaving woman for a younger one has been reversed, but also as anti-ageist, as Suzanne is clearly not far away from the last stage of her life. From this point of view, the passionate love scenes, expertly handled by Corsini and her cinematographer, Agnès Godard, are essential to convey that feeling to recapture, to reclaim, her life as a full woman when it is still possible.

Leaving is also a stark analysis of the patriarchy that still lays under the family as a social institution, and underpinning bourgeois society, a theme very dear to French film makers.

I truly enjoyed it, raising my mood from sadness to anger and to expectation all the way through until the completely unexpected finale, which caught me totally on the wrong foot, in spite of a clue having been laid early on.

The DVD contains an enlightening and not too long interviews to Catherine Corsini and Kristin Scott Thomas, UK theatrical trailer plus the usual scene and setting up options.

Leaving will be released in the UK on 29th November 2010.

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