Director: Catherine Corsini
Screenplay: Catherine Corsini & Gaëlle Macé
Producer: Michel Seydoux & Fabienne Vonier
Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Sergi López, Yvan Attal, Bernard Blancan, Alexandre Vidal, Daisy Broom
BBFC Certification: 15
Duration: 85 min
I wasn’t expecting to like Leaving and kept putting off watching it (I’d been sent a screener to review). Without wanting to sound like a philistine (and a bit racist) I’m often put off by overly serious French dramas. I love subtlety in film, I don’t need explosions and excitement in everything I watch, but I can’t stand pretentious, drawn out snobbery and I’ve had some bad past experiences with films like that before. So in looking at Kristen Scott Thomas’ miserable face on the English poster I thought I was in for a long slog.
Luckily, although I didn’t love the film, I was still pleasantly surprised by how it turned out.
Leaving tells a well-worn tale of a rich woman in a stale marriage, Suzanne (Scott Thomas) who falls in love with her Spanish handyman Ivan (Sergi López). She has a short affair with him but then decides to leave her husband Samuel (Yvan Attal) in search of a happier life. Samuel doesn’t let Suzanne off that easily though and does everything in his power to make things as difficult as possible for the pair in a sick attempt to win her back.
It was a film of two halves for me really and I loved the first half. The film is surprisingly short and sharp, especially in the first half hour. Not a frame is wasted as the situation is laid out in simple, brief scenes. It’s all very unpretentious too with the relationship blossoming subtly yet clearly. There are no big moments, everything is underplayed. Even the couple’s first kiss is viewed from a distance, the emotions implied from scenes before and in the figures’ body language. There’s a lot of sex on show, but it’s not glossily shot, it feels real and serves the purpose of demonstrating the characters’ emotional states. The film in general, although classily shot, never becomes overly stylish either and lets the actors do all the work.
Unfortunately the film lost me a bit in the second half. It’s not bad, but once Suzanne leaves her husband the film loses much of it’s subtlety and becomes a bit over the top. Samuel is made out to be such an absolute arsehole that he stops being believable. I realise that people do some crazy things when they get divorced but I just didn’t buy it here. I guess the problem for me was mainly that I would have preferred to examine the emotional impact of the separation on a straight forward level, especially where her children were concerned, rather than turning it into more of a melodrama caused largely by financial implications.
As I said, the end isn’t bad by any means, but the aspects of the film I appreciated the most got a little diluted and left a sour taste in my mouth after such a promising start. I would still recommend people see Leaving though, it’s a tightly constructed drama that handles a standard story with maturity and delicacy (in the first half at least).
The DVD is released by Metrodome on 29th November in the UK. Buy Leaving on DVD at Amazon.
Review by David Brook