FINDING love after divorce can prove an excruciating experience. An unhealthy cocktail of desperation and past baggage can cloud judgement and lead to wrong choices being made.
It does not help if you are beautiful and desirable as Isabelle is in Let The Sunshine In, the latest film from Claire Denis (Beau Travail). Indeed, it probably makes the search for love more arduous.
In theory, Isabelle, played by an exquisite Juliette Binoche, has everything going for her. She is a successful artist, is stunningly attractive in her short leather skirt and thigh high boots, and lives in the centre of Paris. A bit of a bohemian.
Unsurprisingly, she has little trouble in finding suitors. Indeed most men are stopped in their tracks when they cast their eyes on her. But the individuals she ends up with are a suspect bunch. Usually married and self-centred.
There is the banker (Xavier Beauvois) who we first see atop Isabelle. Not a pretty sight, the banker that is, as he grunts his way to orgasm. Later we learn of the mind tricks Isabella employs to bring herself to climax while the banker does his impression of a beached whale. Highly amusing although it gets you wondering what – or whom – your loved one thinks about during sex. John Travolta in his prime? Bridgette Bardot? Both.
The banker is a horrid person, one moment telling Isabelle that he would never leave his wife because she is ‘extraordinary’. The next, he turns up with flowers expecting Isabelle to roll over and let him do his whale impression. The disparaging way he treats a bartender does the cause of bankers no good.
This awful human being is followed by the young actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who is 100 times sexier than the banker. But after a night of passion, he ditches Isabelle for his own guilt reasons. She is reduced to tears. How many other times has this alcohol-fuelled Svengali pulled this trick on mesmerised women? Plenty for sure.
Isabelle even turns to her ex-husband (Laurent Grevill) for solace but when he starts using sexual techniques obviously gleamed from watching too much porn, he is sent packing. Two fingers to him (you will understand when you see the film).
There is also a man she falls for on the dancefloor while on a trip to a rural arts festival. He is quite sexy (Paul Blain) but it does not last. There are other men. A fellow artist (Alex Descas) who is not yet prepared to make a commitment and a friend Bruno Podalydes who is best at giving out advice.
Isabelle ends up seeking help from a therapist (Gerard Depardieu) who as the film’s credits roll doles out advice: ‘Open. Stay open to things. Find your own unique life path and you’ll find a beautiful inner light.’ Hence the film’s title.
Let The Sunshine In is of our time and will strike a chord with many a divorcee. Of course, Binoche is the star. Although it is difficult not to notice her exquisite attractiveness, it is her vulnerability (a tear here, a smile there) that makes her performance so compelling. Her doe like eyes draw you into her character. More unsuccessful in love than successful.
For many men, Let The Sunshine In will prove uncomfortable viewing. Not just because the film portrays most of Isabelle’s lovers in a poor light. It might also leave them questioning how giving they really are between the sheets – and what their loved one really thinks about them.
As for women, many will identify with Isabelle’s desperate need to find love which goes unfulfilled. Sex. Yes. Love. Far harder.
This was review 22/30 in April’s Close-up Culture Monthly Film Challenge – Female Filmmakers.