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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur) movie review: her own worst enemy

Let the Sunshine In yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Juliette Binoche’s search for midlife love is drenched in ennui and punctuated by weary philosophizing. There’s not a lot of satisfaction in it, nor much by way of resolution. Very French.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movies about women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
female director, female screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

Is this my life? I want to find love.” So laments Juliette Binoche (Ghost in the Shell) as Isabelle, a 50something artist in Paris, echoing many a woman of every age. Which is in fact something of a comfort: if a woman of such luminousness, grace, and intelligence can’t find a man, then maybe it’s not us, but them. (Just kidding: We all already know it’s them.) And truly, all the men in her life are awful in mundane, conventional ways that are very recognizable: they’re self-centered, unfaithful, crude, wishy-washy, posturing, demanding, casually insulting when they think they’re being flattering. One man tells her, “I like your synthetic mind,” which is simply a terrible thing to say to anyone… though she doesn’t seem to notice. So there’s that, too: Isabelle is so lonely and so desperate for male company that she seems to have no taste at all in men. (So, guys, don’t write in to #NotAllMen me. This movie isn’t meant to condemn all men. Just the ones who warrant it.)

“You really are a ridiculous waste of manflesh, mon mec...”

“You really are a ridiculous waste of manflesh, mon mec…”

Let the Sunshine In is very French: drenched in ennui and punctuated by weary philosophizing as Isabelle wanders in and out of encounters with such masculine horrors as an actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who sighs over his own inability to make a decision about anything, and a banker (Xavier Beauvois) who compares her unfavorably to his wife, by way of explaining why he’d never leave his wife even though he’s been fucking Isabelle. Sometimes, in her disconsolate mopiness, she is very unfair to other men who don’t deserve it, at least at that moment, such as her ex (Laurent Grévill: The Good Thief) and the random guy (Paul Blain) she picked up at a nightclub and then lashes out at when a friend suggests that he’s all wrong for her. (This is probably true, but still.)

It’s all based on Roland Barthes’s book A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, but director — and screenwriter, with Christine Angot — Claire Denis renders Isabelle’s anti-adventures loosely, with almost an improvised feel. There’s not a lot of satisfaction in any of it, nor much by way of resolution. At one point, after another inadequate date, Isabella asks the taxi driver on her ride home, “Are you happy?” He doesn’t really answer. Because who is? Basically the movie in a nutshell.

Very French.


Let the Sunshine In is in cinemas and available to stream in the UK via Curzon Home Cinema. It opens at the IFC Center in New York on April 27th.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.


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yellow light 3 stars

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Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur) (2018) | directed by Claire Denis
US/Can release: Apr 27 2018
UK/Ire release: Apr 20 2018 (VOD same day)

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong sex, sex references)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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