MOVIE: LET THE SUNSHINE IN
STARRING: JULIETTE BINOCHE; XAVIER BEAUVOIS; NICOLAS DUVAUCHELLE; GERARD DEPARDIEU
DIRECTED BY: CLAIRE DENIS
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
Let the Sunshine In begins with a sex scene that is every bit of realistic, clumsy, intimate, and depressing at the same time. It is a tone setter, where the camera is practically in-between the two interlocked bodies. Although it is titillating, it is also uncomfortable, because that's what love between mature adults is, uncomfortable. Throughout Claire Denis' film, she studies the difficulties of love at a certain age, and it funnels through the lens of our lead character Isabelle (Juliette Binoche). She is an artist, a mother, and divorced, while stumbling her way through various men in her life. Some love interests, some flings, others are acquaintances in her inner circle of art friends. Each one is a different experience and a wrinkle to Isabelle's life. It's all portrayed beautifully and why Let the Sunshine In is a heartbreaking and emotional film. By the end, you feel close to Isabelle and want her to find a great love.
Did I mention that Isabelle is played by the timeless actor Juliette Binoche? A movie of this caliber relies entirely on the oscar winner, and as she typically does, she flourishes, from beginning to end. The first man of interest is a banker named Vincent (Xavier Beauvois), a married man, portly in stature, and a major snob for life. He gets his kicks from the control he wields over Isabelle, as he dangles promises of leaving his wife over her head, while he belittles bartenders about his knowledge of whiskey. He seeks pleasure like an animal, while Isabelle is searching for a deeper kind of love. A real love.
A large portion of my love for Let the Sunshine In comes from Claire Denis' attention to detail. There is a subtle touch in every scene she films, from the lighting of rooms, or capturing the various looks that Isabelle makes during a conversation, or framing two figures standing close to one another. It is obvious that Binoche is her muse, an actor that is so good at what she does, I couldn't see any other actor in the role. From her work in 1,000 Times Goodnight, Clouds of Sils Maria, or this, the French star gets better with each new project. She is a legend of the screen.
The second man we see in Isabelle's life is a well-respected actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) that has a conversation with himself over a few drinks. The entire sequence between these two sums up the struggles of Isabelle's desires. Does she want to even involve herself with this man? Someone who just got out of a relationship, which would lead to nothing but a one-night stand. Her struggle is relatable to anyone trying to find love in a conflicted world. A later sequence at a disco club with her art gallery friends, she sees a mysterious man and dances with him to Etta James' “At Last”. It is a romantic moment, but Denis deals in a realistic narrative, not a sappy Nora Roberts novel, so this love is conflicted as well.
About halfway through Let the Sunshine In I felt a sense of grief. Not just because Isabelle couldn't find love, but because I felt enormous empathy for the character. Often times we feel alone in the world, where our interests do not align with others, and no matter how much we try to find love or succeed at love, we still feel a sense of loneliness. In the end, Denis leaves us with a bit of hope, which is both lovely and painful, because it is often the hope we feel that can quickly turn to disappointment. That is where the beauty lies. When there is darkness, a light can shine.
Written by: Leo Brady