In director Claire Denis’ new film, Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur, original title) Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) is free falling in love, and in the process reveals the weaknesses of a strong woman. It may sound a little cliché, but at the age of 72, the director has not only cemented her place in cinema history but she has also earned the right to tell a story in whichever way she wants. Fortunately for viewers, Let the Sunshine In is a sharply focused and unapologetic exploration of hope and desire, the search for love, and the persistence of the self as depicted by Isabelle, a recently divorced, middle-aged painter, woman, mother, and lover.
At first, Isabelle comes across as needy, filled with angst and loneliness, which drives her to look for love in all the wrong places and through a series of pathetic lovers. All involved are highly imperfect people, and as Isabelle continues to fall for one ill-fitted lover after another, the relationships and interactions spiral into absurdity, making the film an accidental melodramatic comedy of sorts that works because folded into the fluttering and failing relationships are truths about the restlessness of the human heart and the search for true love.
Cinematically title of the film is beautifully textured. Denis’ dexterous lens is experienced and fearless, often positioning itself to reveal intimacy and the characters’ vulnerabilities. The use of poignant sequence shots creates the illusion of space for Binoche’s full range performances and acting acumen. Let the Sunshine In follows in the tradition of some of the best French films in which there is no “there” there, and is not reliant on plot twists or car chases, but instead creates an emotional landscape with layers of nuances that open the doors for deeper and interpersonal dialogue. Denis uses angles and details that positions the viewers as voyeur at times, but also puts them in Isabelle’s shoes, creating a connection between the viewer and Isabelle. Denis empowers the viewer to see Isabelle and to judge her, and there is plenty to call her out on, her neediness and loneliness make her seem desperate, at times irritating, and all those things that no one wants to be but everyone is at some point in life. Denis stealthy moves the film along, and somewhere along the line, the viewer finds him/herself involved and caring about Isabelle, suddenly recognizing her strength, it’s as if the dawn had been approaching all along. From that point on, Isabelle is a new person for the viewer, she is a person of substance, an artist, and middle aged woman who owns her desire, and an intellectual who holds her own in the milieu of the pretentious and male dominated art world. As Isabelle’s character continues on quest for love, Denis widens the scope to illustrate that Isabelle’s need for love is not about love from any one particular person, these can come and go, it’s the love of the self that is at the center of the film. The ubiquitous nature of the quest for love is nicely encapsulated when Denis, le voyant (a seer), played by Gérard Depardieu, is introduced into the film in a most human way possible, sitting in parked car going through a break up. To see the seer in pain and then be the beacon of light got Isabelle reveals the convoluted conversation about love and about hope that are always in progress.
Let the Sunshine In ~ Un beau soleil intérieur (original title)
Thursday, 6/28 at 5:30PM