There’s something about the joys of NOT getting lost in translation…
While running through the beats of the typical rom-com affair in Let The Sunshine In, we get something with more nuance and depth then we’d initially expect thanks to the likes of a masterful filmmaker and one of the more engaging actors of our modern times that knows how to enrapture an audience.
Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) is a divorced Parisian painter searching for another shot at love, but refusing to settle for the parade of all-too-flawed men who drift in and out of her life. Dealing with the complexities of a variety of lovers, many of who are married; there’s a caddish banker (Xavier Beauvois) who can’t take no for an answer, a handsome actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who’s working through his own hang-ups; and a sensitive fellow artist (Alex Descas) who’s skittish about commitment. More than just a comedy of errors, Isabelle finds herself in the midst of a deep and meaningful exploration of the never ending mysteries of love.
This film is really the penultimate example of how you raise material above its standard bar because in another world Let The Sunshine In may have been directed by Garry Marshall and starred Julia Roberts. Thankfully we do not live in that world. Instead we get an emotional and tender look at the highs and the lows that we cause each other in search of love and why we won’t stop looking for it any time soon.
It’s sublime, it’s slight, it’s the heartache and torment of sexual and emotional indecision all rolled up into a neat little 94 minutes and it’s as close to a masterstroke that you can get in a genre like this. Both Claire Denis and her writing partner Christine Angot have adapted the book by Roland Barthes and given it a uniquely feminine feel that is both cerebral and raw in depicting the beauty and the sadness in that never ending quest for love.
Denis allows the film to feel very limber, especially from a visual perspective and it allows us as audience to really embrace the train of thought experience that this is truly meant to be. The photography never gets too fancy but it is always dripping with subtext and meaning, as important as the words coming out of our heroine’s mouth are, her surroundings carry equal weight since she is an older woman, feeling her age (and the pressure to settle) in a man’s world. Thankfully she’s having none of it because she knows damn well that it’s just not the kind of world anymore where a woman has to do that sort of thing.
Juliette Binoche is that rare breed of actor who could sit down in front of a camera in a static shot, read the phone book and it will still be one of the more compelling films of the year. With Isabelle she brings not only strength of character and purpose but emotion to the role as she fights in a world to try and find that one true love that had been denied to her up until this point. Our journey with her down her rolodex feels so effortless and the reality is that we don’t necessarily need to like her as a character but this masterful performance always shows us elements that we can relate to and understand. It’s a rigorous look at how complex and truly messed up our feelings can be, especially when it comes to love.
To be fair, I do have to admit that while Let The Sunshine In will not be a film for everyone, it’s so rich in complexity and nuance that you can’t help but be in awe of and appreciate the hell out of it as a piece of unique storytelling. It’s easily in the upper echelons on the canon of Claire Denis.
Let The Sunshine In is playing exclusively at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.