Let the Sun Shine In
Starring Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Gérard Depardieu
The film opens with Oscar winner Binoche (Clouds of Sils Maria) lying naked on the bed, then we realize she is “engaged”. Let the Sun Shine In isn’t so much about sex as it is a middle-aged woman desperately trying to find the love of her life. Sounds like Bridget Jones, right? Similar films were more entertaining, but Claire Denis latest portrays her lead character more like a self-proclaimed “backstreet lover”, than a woman most audiences (at least American) might identify with. The feature is blocked similar to a stage play, each scene confined to one room typically where a conversation between Binoche’s character and a male will discuss their opportunities for sex or a relationship, act on that, or move to the next scene.
Isabelle (Binoche) is a divorced artist who spends more of her time flirting than working. She mopes around her shared apartment with daughter and ex-husband François (Laurent Grévill), who stops by occasionally for a romp in the sheets. The man she really wants is a handsome local actor, L’acteur (Nicolas Duvauchelle) but married and unwilling to explore his feelings for Isabelle. Vincent (Xavier Beauvois) treats her like a common prostitute but can’t get enough of her; she of course can’t stand him but craves the companionship. Vincent is also married and very clear on the fact he would never leave his extraordinary wife for her. Her relationship guru Denis, le voyant (Depardieu) holds magic stones over photos of the men she brings to their sessions, offering advice and guidance.
This particular performance comes across as withdrawn and not too memorable.
It takes the viewer a couple of scenes to understand the direction of the film. Reminding oneself that the French look at love and sex much differently than Americans is a useful tool while watching this film. The plot moves at a snail’s pace despite running at only 90 minutes. Paris and the surrounding locations, when we do get external shots, are morbid, isolated, brown and soulless. It’s unclear who the prime audience for this type of film is, but it’s not the mainstream. Binoche, experiencing a career resurgence, has until now sought after vibrant, strong, female roles that challenge her as a performer. This particular performance comes across as withdrawn and not too memorable.
The translation from French to English via subtitles is not the best and much of the sentiment might be lost in the mechanics of language. The picture does something extraordinarily curious in the final act. It’s a little ironic that a woman like Isabelle would be taking advice from a goof played buy the goofiest Depardieu. However, as this stagnant scene plays out, where the guru talks about her various prospects, large credits begin to appear over both characters and then run up the left side of the screen. If for some kind of self-torture, you have remained until this part of the film, Denis really wants to make sure you see every single moment of her film.
The only thing that’s ‘let in’ here is boredom.