Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur, France-Belgium, 2017)

On the pull

A middle-aged woman, newly divorced, looking for a ‘second-time around’ romance from a female perspective; what’s not to like? Scripted by Christine Angot and Clair Denis (the latter directing), Let the Sunshine In could have been entitled ‘all men are arseholes’ except that would have pandered to the belief, held by some, that feminists are man-haters. Rather, with the exception of one (Marc played by Alex Dacas), the men are represented as self-centred egoists which is far from an unusual combination. As Xavier Beauvois’ Vincent says, “I’ve just got back from Brazil and fancied shagging you.”

At the centre of the film is Juliette Binoche’s Isabelle who is somewhat a victim of her completely human urges. The script is superbly written, often the conversations consist of fragmentary sentences the gaps of which are easy to fill in. All the time I felt like shouting at Isabelle to ‘leave him!’; ‘him’ being whichever man she was hoping to form a liaison with. Part of the difficulty of the film is that it is difficult to believe that men could be so stupid in the presence of such a sexy and talented (she’s an artist) woman but I guess that’s the point. Binoche may be the ‘sex siren’ of the moment for middle aged men who don’t covet young flesh.

The ending, which I won’t give away, is quite brilliant. Two stars of French cinema, Gerard Depardieu and Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, suddenly make an appearance; the latter momentarily. The former plays a ‘fortune teller’ and Depardieu’s performance is quite sensational and you suddenly realise the undercurrent of what he’s saying. Indeed, much of the film is funny but the laugh appears after the event (well, it did for me) as it takes a while for the subtext of what’s just be said to sink in.

Isabelle is certainly not perfect as she repeats mistakes and acts against her better judgment; again a very human thing to do. That said, the milieux is specifically French where the bourgeois-intelligensia have an over-exaggerated opinion of themselves and the whole film can be seen as a send up of these people and a strand of French cinema that celebrates their lives. Denis, however, isn’t being vindictive, the fun she pokes is gentle except for one scene when Isabelle loses it with a pretentious land owner.

Apparently the film was made quickly when a project fell through and is loosely based on Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse.


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