Infidelity in the movies is often shown in one of two ways. It’s either a man being a complete git who doesn’t deserve to have his cake and eat it or it’s a woman who has been put upon and finds a lover who changes every aspect of her life for the better. This double-standard has always annoyed me but it’s very, very difficult to find films that show things in a more even, and more realistic way. Leaving does just that and is a much better film for it.
The story revolves around the (seemingly) happily married Suzanne, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, and the relationship she develops with a builder/menial worker named Ivan (Sergi Lopez) that takes it’s toll on her family life and relationship with her powerful husband, Samuel (Yvan Attal).
Starting off with a bang and then jumping back in time, we have a constant sense of foreboding and dread as we know that things can’t end in the happy, safe bubble that Scott Thomas would like to inhabit with her new lover by her side. People, as in real life, have turns of being good and bad here and although director Catherine Corsini keeps you onside with the female lead character it’s a fine balancing act that allows this to happen as we basically watch a woman selfishly destroy a very good life for all those around her. Her husband has moments of understandable anger and frustration, her daughter can’t handle the changes while her son tries to accept them and even her new man tries to prepare her for the difficulties ahead that she seems to steadfastly avoid thinking of (but isn’t that what love can do?).
The screenplay, by Corsini and Gaelle Mace, does well with the characterisations and building of relationships but things don’t really get interesting until about a third of the way into the movie. It’s just the nature of the thing that means you spend the first little while knowing a relationship will have to be established and wanting it done without too much suspension of disbelief or excess melodrama (which it is).
The acting from all three leads is superb and it’s really not worth singling anyone out as they all have their individual standout moments while also holding their own in the scenes with each other. The one worth mentioning is the one I’d never seen before, actually, the lad who plays Suzanne’s son, David. A great performance showing a young man who just wants everyone to get on with their lives and be happy.
With parallels to the lead actresses real life and the oft-used idea of an upper-class woman falling for someone below her social strata, this movie is probably as easy to scorn as it is to praise but there was something about it, something that made it feel more realistic than most despite many of the clichés within (and aren’t clichés just clichés sometimes because they happen?) and something impressive about every aspect of a film that’s as deceptively slight as it is loaded with emotion.
DIRECTOR: CATHERINE CORSINI
CAST: KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS, SERGI LOPEZ, YVAN ATTAL
RUNTIME: 85 MINS APPROX