Let the Sunshine In (2017)

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

Romeo(s) and Juliette

by Alexa Dalby

Let the Sun Shine 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 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. 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). There are moments of mordant comedy and the film consists of many tête-a-têtes about relationships, sometimes with Isabelle’s unsatisfactory men, or once with her friend 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 – first-world problems.

As a coda, there’s a joyous appearance by a potentially lascivious Gérard Depardieu as a kind of psychic psychotherapist. He advises Isabelle by dowsing over photographs of her lovers, whilst simultaneously slyly setting himself up for a future dalliance with her. It’s a very verbose film, perhaps too much so, as one of the characters says, and 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 would this be a preoccupation

Let the Sunshine In premiered at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, where it won the SACD prize, screened at the 61st BFI London Film Festival and is released on 20 April 2018 in the UK.

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