Cannes review: Bright Sunshine In (2017)

Juliette Binoche stars in a rom-com departure for Claire Denis in Bright Sunshine In (Un Beau Soleil Interior).

Romeos and Juliette

by Alexa Dalby

Bright Sunshine In

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Midlife romance, or searching for it, is the theme and Juliette Binoche is Isabelle, a middle-aged woman we first see from above, naked and in bed. She’s with overweight, married banker Vincent (Xavier Beauvois), having sex that’s vigorous but apparently unsatisfying, though it seems to be part of an ongoing relationship.

Being played by Binoche means that divorced artist Isabelle is delicately beautiful and gracefully charming. Her local fishmonger consistently asks her for a date and she effortlessly attracts a series of men – none of whom can give her the relationship she seeks, as she discusses with them the possibilities for love and sex for older single women like her. Yet she’s a bad picker, constantly choosing men who are emotionally unavailable or who cannot give her the response she needs. There’s a married actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), her ex (Laurent Grevill), a fellow artist (Bruno Podalydes) – all seem promising at first but none can give love, or even friendship.

Claire Denis has co-written with novelist Christine Angot (Incest), and there are moments of mordant comedy and the film consists of many tête-a-têtes about relationships, sometimes with her unsatisfactory men, or once with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Isabelle is emotionally complex and sometimes the situations she puts herself in are absurd. Her men don’t want to commit, but maybe deep down she doesn’t either.

As a coda, there’s an joyous appearance by a potentially lascivious Gérard Depardieu as a kind of psychic psychotherapist, in a consultation advising Isabelle by dowsing over photographs of her lovers, whilst simultaneously setting himself up for a dalliance with her. It’s a very verbose film, perhaps too much so, as one of the characters says, low key with a cool jazz score by Tindersticks’ Stuart A. Its most unusual quality is its sensitive approach to a woman ‘of a certain age’ – perhaps only in France. Auteur Claire Denis (Beau Travail, Bastards, White Material and The Intruder is herself 71.

Bright Sunshine In won the SACD prize at the 70th Cannes Film Festival 2017.

Bright Sunshine In is now showing in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.

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