STARRING: ALEX LAWTHER; JULIET STEVENSON; PHENIX BROSSARD; FINBAR LYNCH
DIRECTED BY: ANDREW STEGGALL
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
With the recent success of Moonlight, I hope there is a rise of films that tell more unique stories, about people who struggle with their identity, growing up in as confusing of a world that it is. A good start is the movie Departure, written and directed by Andrew Steggall, about a young man named Elliot (Alex Lawther) who discovers himself sexually with a boy named Clement (Phenix Brossard) while helping his mother (Juliet Stevenson) move out of their summer home in the South of France. It is a complex, coming of age story, which is at times poetic, and an emotional drama.
Early on, Elliot and his mother Beatrice are traveling along the hills to their home at night and accidentally hit something. They are not sure what it is, but it is a sign that the relationship between these two is going to be bumpy. Cleaning the house becomes a form of catharsis, where the old memories of their family are put away, and a time where Elliot's parents love for one another is dwindling to it's end. Through all of this, is the young son's struggle with his sexuality, seeking for a way to deal with his depression and yearning for a lovers touch.
What works best in Departure is a truly spectacular performance from young lead Alex Lawther. He handles the script, written by Steggall, with an honest and complete commitment to the material. Although some of the imagery can be a bit cliched, the Imitation Game actor conveys an emotional struggle with life and is always honest, often felt through his facial expressions of fear. It may come off as a standard coming of age story, but Departure is set against a beautiful countryside backdrop, with often magnificent cinematography of golden suns and French fields by Brian Fawcett.
When the mysterious and tough Clement comes into, both Elliot and Beatrice's lives, it is when Departure is working at it's best. There is a very complex triangle at hand, where Elliot studies him from every angle and enjoys a smoke, while Beatrice notices the vibrant attractive youth, from someone who is vulnerable and free. When Departure struggles, is after the father-Philip arrives, it becomes a melodramatic and lengthy piece of dramatics that could be resolved easier.
Departure is however, a refreshing, and well promising piece of cinema. This is director Andrew Steggall's first feature length film, but the British director has made a film with the eye and artistic flare of a regular Todd Haynes. Some parts feel equal to Dead Poets Society and even the sexually charged Stranger by the Lake. If anything is for sure, this is a director worthy of making many more films after this. It is a movie that won't be going away any time soon.
Written by: Leo Brady