Leaving (15)

Film

Thrillers

Leaving 20.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jul 6 2010

The acting trio of Kristin Scott Thomas, Sergi López and Yvan Attal add weight and interest to this French drama, which could easily have been a much more mundane study of the conflict between practicality and passion in love and marriage. As it is, ‘Leaving’ plays it pretty straight and is rarely a very subtle affair, although director Catherine Corsini succeeds well in planting a seed of discomfort about the limits of romance and freedom that blossoms into full-blown cynicism by the end.


Scott Thomas plays English-born, French-speaking Suzanne, a well-off housewife training to return to work as a reflexologist in Nîmes in southern France, where she lives in a stylish modern house with her husband Samuel (Attal) and two teenage kids. Samuel is an unlikeable presence, a successful businessman with many political and commercial links in the area, who casually jokes about his wife’s economic powerlessness. It’s that power, or lack of it, that becomes the film’s main concern when Suzanne gets closer and closer to Ivan (López), a labourer they hire to help with renovations in their home and with whom she falls in love over the hacksaw and power drill.

What’s interesting about ‘Leaving’ is that Suzanne’s affair is immediately presented as an anti-climax – at least when the first few climaxes are out of the way – even after she takes the bold step of leaving her husband and kids. Corsini gives Suzanne physical and emotional liberation with one hand, but slaps her back into reality with the other as she describes how Samuel blocks her bank account and exploits his local standing to make life equally difficult for the man who’s cuckolded him. There are hints, too, that Ivan isn’t so enraptured with Suzanne when she’s not the monied, carefree person he first meets, which further douses the flames of the film’s amour fou.

Corsini’s film sidesteps a simple tale of stricture and liberation and rails against the more conservative, less progressive strictures of marriage, accusing Suzanne and Ivan of creating a partnership which is unhealthy and unequal. Samuel is nothing less than the villain of the piece, and is fairly two-dimensional. But Suzanne isn’t merely a victim: we also view her as naive and too willing to play the dutiful housewife to be able easily to step away from that role and play the independent free spirit.

I wonder whether the casting of a Spanish actor as Ivan and an English actress as Suzanne is coincidental? Clearly bad marriages are not national affairs, but the otherness of this pair shines a light on just how French Samuel is, with his peacock role in the home and the small-town, male-centred, quasi-Masonic way in which he operates within his community. There’s definitely a hint, via the casting, that Corsini is having a dig at some peculiarly French rituals and routines of marriage.

Scott Thomas is the main reason to see the film: she inhabits the strange contradictions and volatile changes of her character, even if she’s given a couple of key scenes, such as one at a service station when she runs out of petrol and money, that don’t ring true. The ending suggests a lack of ideas, but the journey is surprising enough for that not to matter.

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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Jul 9, 2010

Duration:

90 mins

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LiveReviews|8
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John Cooper

Dave Calhoun's review is spot on. . . On the subject of national characteristics, why is it the English cannot make films like this . . .where there is always a sophistry underplaying the realism. English realism is, alas usually of the depressing kitchen sink variety.Philosophical irony is seen distastely European, and must be avoided at all costs . . .A film like Leaving which deals adultery exacerbated by class conflict would be given the Upstairs Downstairs treatment in this country . . .Kristen Scott- Thomas is a national treasure in the sense that she resists .`national` stereotypes. ..Her performance is this film is remarkable in that she articulates a complexity of feelings which the English pretend they don't have . . . .quelle domage!

John Cooper

Dave Calhoun's review is spot on. . . On the subject of national characteristics, why is it the English cannot make films like this . . .where there is always a sophistry underplaying the realism. English realism is, alas usually of the depressing kitchen sink variety.Philosophical irony is seen distastely European, and must be avoided at all costs . . .A film like Leaving which deals adultery exacerbated by class conflict would be given the Upstairs Downstairs treatment in this country . . .Kristen Scott- Thomas is a national treasure in the sense that she resists .`national` stereotypes. ..Her performance is this film is remarkable in that she articulates a complexity of feelings which the English pretend they don't have . . . .quelle domage!

Alex

An enjoyable film with some fine performances from the central cast and their supports. I agree that this continues the tradition of good quality French film-making, and with a sense of humour too, which is welcome in this genre! I have one gripe, however: it was noticeable that there wasn't enough chemistry between the two lovers too quite carry off the passion of the affair believably (it looked like there was more between the husband and wife, if anything), which unfortunately brought me out of the film a few times.

Alex

An enjoyable film with some fine performances from the central cast and their supports. I agree that this continues the tradition of good quality French film-making, and with a sense of humour too, which is welcome in this genre! I have one gripe, however: it was noticeable that there wasn't enough chemistry between the two lovers too quite carry off the passion of the affair believably (it looked like there was more between the husband and wife, if anything), which unfortunately brought me out of the film a few times.

O&#039;G

Journeyman French Drama that when they do it well, they are second to none and this is right up there with Tell No One, Lemming and far better than the over rated Cache ( Hidden). Similar in story to fellow Anglophone Tilda Swinton's recent excellent I Am Love this could be described as far more grass roots but compelling none the less. What always impresses me again and again in French Cinema is the capacity to flesh out even the supporting characters as more than one dimensional a device that seems long since gone in most Hollywood Dramas, for example when Scott Thomas' character flys the coop her Family each reacts in their own very real way. It's an excellent picture, if you haven't seen a lot of good recent French or Continental Cinema recently you'll really enjoy it, if you have, you've been down this road before but definitely worth the trek back.

O&#039;G

Journeyman French Drama that when they do it well, they are second to none and this is right up there with Tell No One, Lemming and far better than the over rated Cache ( Hidden). Similar in story to fellow Anglophone Tilda Swinton's recent excellent I Am Love this could be described as far more grass roots but compelling none the less. What always impresses me again and again in French Cinema is the capacity to flesh out even the supporting characters as more than one dimensional a device that seems long since gone in most Hollywood Dramas, for example when Scott Thomas' character flys the coop her Family each reacts in their own very real way. It's an excellent picture, if you haven't seen a lot of good recent French or Continental Cinema recently you'll really enjoy it, if you have, you've been down this road before but definitely worth the trek back.

Mike

Very accurate review by Mr Calhoun. I thought it a very good film, but lacking in imagination towards the end, as I found myself guessing the remainder of the story. That said, despite know what’s likely to happen, I found myself watching through slitted fingers as the story began to conclude. Kristin Scott Thomas is excellent in this film, and her spoken French very natural – unlike the dreadfully clipped Italian of Tilda Swinton in “I am Love� earlier this year.

Mike

Very accurate review by Mr Calhoun. I thought it a very good film, but lacking in imagination towards the end, as I found myself guessing the remainder of the story. That said, despite know what’s likely to happen, I found myself watching through slitted fingers as the story began to conclude. Kristin Scott Thomas is excellent in this film, and her spoken French very natural – unlike the dreadfully clipped Italian of Tilda Swinton in “I am Love� earlier this year.