Crazy in love, or just crazy?
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, December 17, 2010
Is this woman nuts?
That's the question you'll be asking yourself about Kristin Scott Thomas's character in "Leaving," a sexy if frustrating French divorce drama from prolific filmmaker Catherine Corsini.
It doesn't take long for the issue of her sanity to come up. The movie opens with Scott Thomas's Suzanne getting out of bed one night as her husband, Samuel (Yvan Attal), snores beside her. She walks down the hall, and a few seconds later, as Corsini's camera jumps to an exterior shot of the house, we hear a gun being fired.
Who's done what to whom, and why, is left up in the air. The movie then flashes back to six months earlier, by way of explanation. It helps, but not much.
We meet Suzanne, a physical therapist, and Samuel, a doctor at the local hospital, amid renovation work on the garage behind their house, which Suzanne is turning into a home office. She seems open, warm and grounded. As for her husband, he's a bit snippy and curt with the contractor doing the work (Bernard Blancan). But maybe it's the stress of the job. They also have two cute teenage kids (Alexandre Vidal and Daisy Broom).
Then along comes Ivan (Sergi Lopez), a soulful Spanish handyman hired to work on the renovation. After he's injured in an accident that Suzanne feels responsible for, the two begin a torrid affair. And when I say torrid, I mean is-it-hot-in-here-or-what? Corsini's flair for filming their frequent sensuous encounters raises the temperature in the theater about 15 degrees. Dress accordingly.
In short order, Suzanne goes completely gaga for Ivan, leaving Samuel and the kids so she can shack up with her new boyfriend. It's a little crazy. Sure, Ivan's a great lover. (Trust me. Corsini will convince you of that, if nothing else.) But what exactly does she know about him, other than that he's an ex-con - nothing major, he reassures her - and that he's mad about the daughter (Berta Esquirol) he's had with another woman?
The French have a name for it (of course they do): amour fou, which means, literally, mad love. "You're crazy," Ivan tells Suzanne.
Meanwhile, Samuel is getting worked up, going so far as to cut Suzanne off financially and to have Ivan blacklisted from area contracting jobs. Not because he wants revenge, mind you, but because - get this - he wants to take her back, as if nothing ever happened. It isn't pretty. At this point, you're thinking: And she's the crazy one? Yeah, Samuel is a little cuckoo, too.
The film is speeding, full steam ahead, toward that opening bang.
It comes, but when it does, it leaves more questions unanswered than it resolves. If "Leaving" is a story of a broken marriage, what, exactly, went wrong? And if it's a story about lust and its power over logic, why do Suzanne and Ivan keep talking about love, love, love as if they're reunited high school sweethearts? The two have wild sex every chance they get, but there's no evidence - at least not on film - that they know anything about each other.
It's crazy, right?
Contains a lot of sex and nudity, and some obscenity and violence. In French and a few words of Catalan with English subtitles.