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Leaving Review

When a certain plot is so familiar it has been trot out and mercilessly parodied, a film that employs similar tropes goes down hard. In the case of Leaving, it barely manages to appeal, desperately hanging onto an effective performance from the always-strong Kristin Scott Thomas. As Suzanne, a jaded housewife who is attempting a return to work as a physiotherapist after years of stay-at-home life, Thomas quickly falls for Ivan (Sergi López) a Spanish builder whose disarming charm and athletic build win her over. Her husband Samuel (Yvan Attal) naturally doesn’t take the news well, but Suzanne is in love – and if that entails lying to her husband, leaving him and the kids on a whim to jump into bed with Ivan or the absurdly overwrought conclusion of this film, so be it.

I don’t mean to be crass – there’s a wonder in seeing a genuinely moving romantic drama nowadays, but Leaving is not that film. Leaving is a misfire, the work of writer/director Catherine Corsini that brings on the inexcusably exhausting retread of the “bored housewife falls for (often lower class) foreigner”. Everything else is fodder, and no matter how seamlessly paced or acted, clichés sweep whatever legs Thomas’ performance gives the film right out from under it.

It’s hard for me to judge the film when the protagonist is nearly impossible to like, nevermind sympathize with – Suzanne is a confusing emotional mess, to be sure, but certain choices she makes in the film are not only unrealistic but downright silly. Samuel is barely developed and nothing about their home life suggests the kind of grief Suzanne brings about on the household. When Samuel breaks down in tears, she promises her husband of more than 20 years that she will end the relationship – several scenes later, she basically stalks Ivan and we are treated to another ‘passionate’ scene that seemingly flaunts the fact that both performers are comfortable being naked on camera.

Whatever passion is stirred up by the physicality between Thomas and López has trouble taking off because we are so befuddled by Suzanne’s behavior. The woman we first see a caring mother and an attentive, if a bit cold, wife is transformed into a selfish child who never stops to consider the genuine consequences of her relationship with Ivan – the children are only a minor presence and are treated as footsoldiers when Samuel does not agree to divorce Suzanne and she decides evidence is necessary so she is not left penniless following the proceedings.

That is not to say Samuel is without fault – when he breaks down and boils over with anger, he hits Suzanne and his plan to siphon her back into the family life is as selfish as his wife’s infidelity. But if he did transgress against his wife in any way, they built a home together and it would appear that he played the more formidable role in sustaining the family economically. He is genuinely hurt by the infidelity and seems to redouble his efforts to maintain a healthier family life – of course, his way of doing so is lavishing expensive gifts on Suzanne, but its an effort nonetheless.

My reaction to the film is an opinion and I can say without a doubt some people will agree with me and others won’t. But the fact of the matter is, as a film, Leaving rests on such basic plot developments and grand emotions that whatever seriousness the character’s actions may have carried are overshadowed by scene after scene of highly charged arguing or sex. No one in the cast drops the ball, least of all Thomas, who is saddled with both carrying the film and helping us, even briefly, identify with Suzanne. To say that she succeeds occasionally is due to the actress’ dedication and talent at her craft, but the screenplay offers a capable foe that thwarts much of Thomas performance, giving us yet another woman on the verge of a breakdown, not the strong, foolhardy but wholly passionate wife discovering that there is more to life than her stifling marriage. Lucky for us, Ms. Thomas has an impressive catalogue…so skip Leaving and see her work in a better film.

DVD Bonus Features

Nothing except a couple of trailers that play before the main menu.

"Leaving" is on sale February 22, 2011 and is not rated. Drama, Romance. Directed by Catherine Corsini. Written by Catherine Corsini, Gaelle Mace. Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Sergi Lopez, Yvan Attal.

Mar
14
2011
Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.

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