Monday 23 January 2023

Mubi Monday: Let The Sunshine In (2017)

Juliette Binoche stars as Isabelle in this Claire Denis movie that some people have labelled as her version of a rom-com. I wouldn’t, but some have, although I can certainly see how she has taken certain sub-genre elements and reworked them into her own particular approach to film-making.

Isabelle is unable to find real happiness, moving from one encounter to the next with a series of men who aren’t right for her. But Isabelle tends to know that they are not right for her, either from the way she feels about them once the warm afterglow has worn off or from the way she recognises that they just aren’t all that interested. That doesn’t help though, and sometimes someone being disinterest makes Isabelle want to pursue them even more.

Binoche is excellent here, but Binoche is excellent in pretty much everything she does, whether or not the film is deserving of her skill. She’s joined by a variety of actors portraying flawed male suitors, to put it mildly, including Xavier Beauvois, Philippe Katerine, Nicolas Duvauchelle, and one or two others, all doing good work. And there’s a small, but pivotal, role for Gérard Depardieu, playing a character who comes in to the movie just in time to confuse our lead some more. 

Working from a script co-written by herself and Christine Angot, adapting the book by Roland Barthes, Denis enjoys taking us on a journey with her main character that many will recognise. You try to be guarded sometimes and don’t find happiness. You let your guard down and don’t find happiness. You try to find The One, end up settling for the one who is available, and get stuck in what can seem like an endless cycle of dates that you suspect won’t lead to anything that actually lasts. Getting away from that cycle leads to a huge sigh of relief, but no escape is guaranteed to be permanent.

Despite what I have said about the rest of the cast, there are one or two decent men also given some screentime alongside Isabelle. They just don’t take up as much space and time in her life, perhaps because Isabelle has spent so much time with the wrong people that she cannot recognise someone who might be right for her.

Let The Sunshine In is a call to all. It’s a way of reminding people that they deserve to be happy. That shouldn’t be so difficult. But it is. We see it in the trials and tribulations of Isabelle, and we can see it in the highs and lows of our own lives. 

I thought I was quite enjoying Let The Sunshine In while it was on, although it certainly wasn’t a film full of, well, sunshine and rainbows. Thinking about it more, however, it turns out that I REALLY liked it. It is one of my favourite Claire Denis movies, and features what may now be my all-time favourite performance from Binoche. Which is really saying something.


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