Kristin Scott Thomas has a cool hard beauty that has seen her cast in many a film as, well, a cool hard beauty - emotionally repressed and stolidly dutiful. How wonderful then to see her madly, wide-smilingly in love - almost fey.
In Catherine Corsini's LEAVING, Scott Thomas plays Suzanne, a middle-aged middle-class woman married to a financially successful medic and living in a beautiful house. She is rather taken for granted by her husband (Yvan Attal) and kids, and is trying to reclaim her career as a physiotherapist. She is, in many ways, wandering through life on auto-pilot with occasional outbursts where the rage erupts - as in the powerful opening scene. Suzanne's life changes when she meets and pursues a Spanish builder called Ivan (Sergi López). Their attraction is physical - for sure - but not as singularly as her husband tries to portray it. She isn't just a middle-aged woman who has discovered sex but rather, as in Lady Chatterly's Lover - a kind of freedom and self-knowledge. The second half of the film sees the erotic character study move into a sort of procedural thriller as the two lovers are forced to live cut off from the husband's money and Suzanne's children. The surprise is that it isn't Ivan who drives the narrative - neither as seducer nor as breadwinner. Pretty soon Suzanne's girlie happiness turns into a more brutal, steely survival instinct.
By putting Suzanne firmly at the centre of the film, writers Catherine Corsini and Gaëlle Macé have given Kristin Scott Thomnas a role of the kind that is rarely seen in cinema. A middle-aged woman is allowed to be multi-faceted and the driving force of the action and emotional content of the film. Scott Thomas is completely up to the task and this is further evidence of an actress at the top of her game. I also appreciate that Corsini doesn't feel the need to spin this movie out beyond a 80 minute run-time. Too many films nowadays are unnecessarily baggy. But, there is a big problem with this film - and that's the final act. The closing action is too predictable, too crude relative to what has come before, and the final scenes over the end credits, while presumably trying to be ambiguous seem rather off-tone.
LEAVING played London and Toronto 2009 and was released last year in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Brazil. It was released earlier this year in Germany, Italy, Portugal, the UK, Argentina, Denmark, Sweden and the US.