While moments of wit bubble up throughout Clare Denis' "Let the Sunshine In," this is no rom-com; rather, it’s an episodic exploration of one woman’s complicated relationship with love. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
On its breezily intimate surface, Claire Denis’ “Let the Sunshine In” seems like a romantic comedy: Its main character, a Parisian artist named Isabelle (Juliette Binoche, for whom the word “luminous” may have been invented), is looking for love. We see her with a series of men — a full-of-himself banker (Xavier Beauvois); a neurotic actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle); her not-quite-detached ex-husband (Laurent Grevill), with whom she has a daughter. Inside her unadorned white bedroom or out of it, none of them are right for her, but she considers each in turn. “I want to find a love,” she says, “one real love.”
But while moments of wit bubble up throughout, this is no rom-com; rather, it’s an episodic exploration of one woman’s complicated relationship with love. Isabelle, like many of us, isn’t logical when it comes to her heart; she falls for the wrong man (the banker, after her declaration of love, flattens her with “You’re charming, but my wife is extraordinary”) and lets romance make her starry-eyed. In one scene, she hears the opening notes to that swoony anthem of romance, Etta James’ “At Last,” and it seems to take hold of her in spite of herself; she sways, eyelids drooping, lost in its spell.
And, likewise, you have to give yourself over to “Let the Sunshine In,” which doesn’t offer the sort of satisfying beginning/middle/resolution/end that most movies do; rather, it rides along with Isabelle’s life for a while, dropping us off at the end (in a remarkable final scene that takes place with credits rolling). But it’s a pleasure to go along with that ride — to watch Binoche’s face lighting up like a flower suddenly blooming, to enjoy Denis’ golden light and moody, nostalgic score. Isabelle is complicated, in a way that movie women often aren’t; Binoche makes her an intriguing puzzle to solve.
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★★★ “Let the Sunshine In,” with Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois, Philippe Katerine, Josianne Balasko, Sandrine Dumas, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Laurent Grevill, Gerard Depardieu. Directed by Claire Denis, from a screenplay by Denis and Christine Angot. 94 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains sexuality, nudity and strong language). SIFF Film Center.