“Leaving” Is More Than Saying Goodbye
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Back in college, my English literature professor had a thing for D. H. Lawrence. Since I was the only married student in class, he felt safe lingering after each lecture to discuss with me the sexual symbolism in the writer’s imagery. He gave me an inscribed copy of “Sons and Lovers.” But I preferred “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” that sordid tale of a woman of means who takes a working class lover. Maybe it was my working class upbringing that made it appeal.
“Leaving” – the French film that’s playing at the Tropic Cinema – reminds me a bit of Lawrence’s theme. In it, the bored wife of a bourgeoisie doctor decides to throw everything away for a love affair with a handyman who has been hired to build a structure in their backyard.
This familiar tale of a well-to-do woman falling for a working stiff is also mindful of two other recent European films, “Mademoiselle Chambon” and “I Am Love.” But where Tilda Swinton’s “I Am Love” was tinged with magic realism, this Gallic production opts for straightforward realistic drama.
Despite its clichéd premise, this is a movie without any clichéd emotions. Director Catherine Corsini doesn’t waste time on recriminations or guilt or justifications. Rather than telling the audience what to think, she lets us make up our own minds about this illicit relationship. Is it true love … or simply an escape from a suffocating lifestyle?
The doctor’s wife Suzanne is played by Kristin Scott Thomas, an actress who has a knack for making women of a certain age quite appealing. You’ll remember her from “The English Patient” and “The Horse Whisperer.”
The other two sides of the triangle are represented by Yvan Attal as the husband and Sergi Lopez as the lover. The first is the man Suzanne doesn’t love anymore; the second is one she cannot live without.
The husband is vengeful. And when his lawyer refuses to help (“She’s my friend too,” the barrister admonishes), the man uses his power and social leverage to try to separate the lovers and force his wife’s return.
The film doesn’t try to answer the question of why a beautiful woman with a very successful husband and two teenage children would throw away her life of comfort. Is it for love or is it for lust? But we know the answer:
In the end, they are both the same.
[from Solares Hill]