Let The Sunshine In follows Parisian artist Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) and her haphazard search for love, or the warped concept she has of it. Renowned French director Claire Denis, directorially steers this intimate offering depicting the minefield that Isabelle’s romantic entanglements bring. Affairs, flings, dates and meaningless hooks-up are part of the parcel in her quest of self-fulfilment and self-gratification; refreshingly seen through the eyes of a sexually active woman approaching middle age. However, lest not forget we are talking about long admired cinematic beauty, Juliet Binoche.
In an interview last week, Denis admitted to telling Binoche “I want to show what a sexy woman you are. Every shot in the film I am going to show your cleavage. Your legs, your feet, your hands, a short skirt, high heels, leather jacket. She is sexier than any young girl on the red carpet.” And you really can’t blame her, Binoche is simply mesmerizingly exquisite to look at. Lusciously natural, wholesome, sensual, breathtakingly filling out each scene, exuding an abundance of sultriness which just spills over the screen.
Comedic opening scenes with Isabelle engaged in a long-drawn-out coitus with the loutish banker Vincent (Xavier Beauvois); exasperated by it taking so long, she is egging him on to cum. Isabelle later relays she is turned on by how much of a bastard Vincent is; entitled, aggressive, treats waiters like crap, man-handles her on occasion and of course he is married which just adds to his repulsive image. Vincent is juxtaposed by more affable men who follow in her string of liaisons, such as the handsome also married over-talkative actor played by a Denis regular Nicolas Duvauchelle. Isabelle superficially ignores his incessant chatter as she is overcome by her attraction to him.
Men seem to be constantly hovering around Isabelle like flies, unable to control themselves from making the moves. The snobbish art-world friend Fabrice (Bruno Podalydès) who she continually rejects or the brushes with the elegant Marc played by Alex Descas, another Denis favourite. Further down the line, becoming enamoured by stranger (Paul Blain) who she encounters on an empty dancefloor, but as the layers are peeled off he proves just not classy enough. In the film’s denouement, we see Gerard Depardieu in what may be described as an extended cameo, which seems to have been over-exaggerated in the film’s marketing. Depardieu plays Denis, a questionable shamanic love doctor, who gives too broad and non-specific advice whilst nonchalantly coming-not coming on to her.
With Let The Sunshine In Denis hones in on her subject matter, with a more personal examination; exploring proverbial notions of love, intimacy, sexuality, age and gender. She has things open-ended; we are dropped in the thick of it and removed when there is still a lot of story to be told. Filled with extended camera gazes which document long conversations with their natural ebbs and flows and its in these true-to-life interactions that contribute to the film’s humorous streak. Such as when Isabelle can’t bring herself to ask her gallerist if she’s been having an affair with her ex-husband; taking ages in a convoluted, roundabout fashion to spill it all out. Or the blabbermouth actor, toing and froing, verbalising his guilt but also his desire for Isabelle and ends up sleeping with her anyways. Denis’ sex scenes are never fully erotic but more naturalistic and funny, interrupted with clumsy movements and awkward dialogue.
Binoche excels in the role, another career best as this mercurial, hapless love fool.
Completely guided by her emotions, utterly blinded by them; fluctuating from empowered to complete doormat, as all these snapshots of her failed relationships make for a compelling trajectory. It’s a raw, truthful and honest depiction that creates a character that is simultaneously likeable and disagreeable; lured by sex, the promise of love, rejection, loneliness and jealousy. Self-aware and unaware at the same time, unable to find what she wants or even know what that is in the first place. And in her precarious quest the by-product is showcasing the idiocy of all these men, to whom paradoxically she is so beholden to.
Let The Sunshine In is out now
Words By Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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