LET THE SUNSHINE IN
**½ (out of ****)
Let the Sunshine In isn’t quite certain what to do with its central character. The screenplay offers us nearly everything we know about the character in the opening sequence, in which Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) is in the throes of passion. At the finish of the intimate liaison with her new beau, he knocks her down a few pegs in a petty fashion. The rest of the film, written by Christine Angot and director Claire Denis, is a repetition on this theme: Isabelle’s agency as a woman is challenged in some way by a lover, and then she reclaims a tiny part of herself through resolve and confrontation.
This means Denis’ film operates on two levels, each explored to a modest degree and neither particularly well-served by the other. The first level is in the film’s exploration of Isabelle’s sexual mores. Her first lover – or at least the one with whom she begins the film – is Vincent (Xavier Beauvois). He is – not to mince words – an arrogant prick even outside of the bedroom, always guzzling down chasers of whiskey and preying upon Isabelle as if she owes him something. Later, she admits that her attraction to him is borne of her desire for something a bit dangerous.
Later, she orchestrates the seduction of a stage actor (played by Nicholas Duvauchelle) in a similarly self-destructive manner. There is no passion. The man himself doesn’t feel it. The talking, they both find, is useless, and when they sleep together, she feels good, while he feels they should never do that again. When she visits a night club and meets Sylvain (Paul Blain), she emasculates him after their night of passion: She doesn’t want whatever he can provide for her in a long-term context. All she wanted was a fling. All he wants is a connection.
Dialogue is a central tool in the film’s language, and there is simply too much of the stuff, particularly as it often fails to illuminate or complement anything. This brings us to the second level on which Let the Sunshine In operates and, for what it’s worth, works. Binoche’s performance is exceptional when the screenplay allows her simply to reflect upon her choices and what the future brings. The problem, then, is that the movie won’t allow her or the characters who support her to shut up. The result is a film that is, indeed, reflective of sincere concerns but contains a hollowness that is difficult to reconcile.
(Review by Joel Copling)