Like this film, Judge Clark Douglas' life is comprised of intense romance and bewildering stupidity.
A woman prepared to abandon everything in pursuit of passion.
Leaving is intended as an intensely tragic romance, a weepy melodrama about the lengths one will go to in order to find (and more importantly, preserve) True Love. While I'm certainly not opposed to films along these lines, it becomes quite difficult to care about the characters when they're demonstrating such alarming stupidity.
Our story centers on Suzanne (Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long), a successful working woman, wife, and mother. She has a comfortable career as a reflexologist and two loving teenage children. Her husband Samuel (Ivan Attal, Munich) is a bit on the stern, overprotective side, but there's nothing alarming about his behavior. At the moment, Suzanne and Samuel are having their home remodeled. One of the workers is a handsome hunk of a man named Ivan (Sergi Lopez, Pan's Labyrinth), who hurts his leg after attempting to stop Suzanne's van from rolling down a hill.
This puts Ivan in a difficult situation: he will not be to spend one of his all-too-rare weekends with his young daughter because he is unable to drive with a hurt leg. It's a long trip to his daughter's house, but Suzanne nonetheless suggests that she could drive him there and back. Samuel is fine with the idea, and soon Suzanne and Ivan are enjoying a long car ride together. Shortly after they arrive, they begin a passionate affair. In no time at all, Suzanne has made up her mind: she is truly, madly, deeply in love.
Okay. These things happen. I can buy everything up to this point. However, the events that transpire following this set-up become increasingly difficult to believe.
After a few rolls in the hay with Ivan, Suzanne decides to confess everything to her husband. She tells him that she is in love with Ivan and that she has been sleeping with him. "But it's over," she assures him. "It's all over now." Her husband is understandably upset, but he forgives his wife and agrees to move on. However, Suzanne demonstrates no interest in actually ending her relationship with Ivan. She continues sleeping with him and continues to declare her deep and abiding love for him. Soon after, she determines that she is leaving her husband and running off with Ivan.
Angry at this turn of events, Samuel arranges to have Ivan fired from the remodeling job. In fact, despite the fact that he is only a doctor, Samuel seems to have connections with every employer in town. Soon, neither Ivan nor Suzanne is able to find work of any sort. Samuel issues an ultimatum to his wife: "Come back home and everything stops." This only makes Suzanne angrier, which leads to further confrontations between the duo. Soon, Leaving wanders from melodrama into flat-out hysteria, as the husband and wife continue to battle it out in a variety of colorful ways.
I simply cannot understand why a seemingly well-educated, smart woman like Suzanne would make the decisions she does. Why tell her husband the affair is over when it clearly isn't? In fact, why tell her husband about the affair at all until it's absolutely necessary? He's obviously not the sort of man who would simply forget about Ivan afterwards. On numerous occasions, the characters seem to be valiantly searching for ways to bring unpleasant drama into their own lives.
While I can certainly believe that Suzanne would want to leave her husband for a gentler, better-looking guy, I don't buy the idea that she would so willingly abandon both her children and her profession. From what the film presents, the only thing Ivan has to offer is sexual prowess. Perhaps that's enough to draw a person into an affair, but is that really enough to persuade someone to throw away their entire life? Ivan's nice, but we rarely see any sort of connection between them that's deeper than, "I really want to rip your clothes off."
I'm sure there are some who will find the film moving and heart-wrenching and so on, but I feel a certain measure of resentment towards a film which so blatantly attempts to distort reality for the sake of creating problems for the characters. There's no way that a doctor living in modern-day France could have such powerful sway over every gainful employer within driving distance, nor is there any way that a woman like Suzanne would permit herself to wander into the events which transpire during the final twenty minutes or so. As Leaving progresses, one quickly begins to see puppet master's strings and ceases to believe that the characters are real.
The three principal actors are all talented folks (particularly Thomas, who moves so easily between English and French from film to film). They have all been very good before and they will undoubtedly be very good again. In this instance, they are simply unable to make the foolish behavior their characters demonstrate even remotely believable.
The DVD transfer is certainly lovely, spotlighting the attractive palette and the visual charms of the French countryside quite nicely. Detail is strong and darker scenes benefit from impressive depth. The audio is quite low-key, save for a couple of very brief moments. This is a dialogue-driven track and gets the job done well enough. The only supplement on the disc is a trailer.
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