In getting a perfect grasp at what it feels like to live within the lifestyle of Juliette Binoche’s Isabelle in Let the Sunshine In, Claire Denis keeps the camera lingering at long gaps between conversations. In talking about what these moments evoke thematically, what you also are experiencing is something so clearly fragmented by the fact that life is made to feel a bit too extraordinary for oneself to control – but because of this it is so hard to find what is natural in a flourishing relationship anymore. But of course the concept of love is something so complex, because for some it may seem happy as an idea and the reality is something so cynical, even attempts at letting the “sunshine” in only manage to bring out the worst in oneself. It’s the way that Claire Denis understands this emotion that keeps Let the Sunshine In so thoroughly engaging, because not a single facet is ignored – in trying to get down to the bone of what this “sunshine” feels like. But to what extent do we know it is truly communicating to our senses, in this new Denis film we see a whole other level of this mood, and what comes forth is something so melancholy.
Juliette Binoche stars as Isabelle, a middle-aged Parisian artist living a life of solitude. She spends her nights trying to search for a meaningful relationship once again, after having split up with a former lover with whom she has a daughter – but she still feels from these sexual encounters that there is something missing. In watching the way her daily routine unfolds, you already feel a sense of emptiness in her life, but it is within this emptiness you also feel detachment from the many encounters that she shares with other men, who seem never to look beyond the fact that Isabella is gorgeous and alone. In watching how Denis explores the dynamics of understanding both ends of a relationship, what Let the Sunshine In also shows is something more damaging – perhaps not explicitly but internally, especially in Isabelle’s own character, for every conversation still serves a key purpose in understanding the state of Isabelle’s own life as is and how complicated the search for a meaningful relationship can be.
What already catches me about Let the Sunshine In is the fact that even in moments where there on the outside you see that Isabelle is attempting to connect with someone, she still feels alien to how they understand her desires. But in this disconnect is something more intimate in regards to identifying with such a protagonist much like Isabelle, for you already feel from the opening shot that there is something missing from what presents itself to be a notion of making love. But this disconnect also brings you closer to the frustration that she feels, for in each conversation you note the long breaks between every exchange, like the characters are still trying to come up with a proper response to what is going on within the very moment. In coming back to how Denis understands this frustration, the radical differences in terms of the characters’ mannerisms play a great factor into forming a journey – one that repeats itself day by day, only for oneself to take that time in order to learn about what more can be done.
But in observing a character like Isabelle, Claire Denis understands that she never sees it as being wholly easy to fix everything that frustrates her on the spot – only allowing for more room to create a nuanced performance from Juliette Binoche. Between the quiet moments and her hysterics, you still find something far more heartbreaking, for what Denis shows is a character whose frustrations and cynicisms have only made further complicated the sort of person that she is but also in understanding herself better than her surroundings would. You already find something more scathing in the way her character maneuvers through life and the many men that come in and out, because even in the standards that Isabelle sets for herself you see something uglier about the world she lives in – one that never shows that “sunshine” she seeks to let into her own life.
There’s one heartbreaking cue that sets forth why I find Let the Sunshine In to work as beautifully as it does, and it would be that final conversation which Isabelle has with another man played by Gerard Depardieu. It’s a moment where she tries to figure out why her life has pushed her around the way that it has, why she lets life continue to do that, and in the form of an ongoing conversation you just see all the cracks that form her personality. But Claire Denis understands that this is so normal, life all the most self-conscious individuals would be upon entering something new, and all it does it keep everything repeating day by day. Should one just simply “let the sunshine in” through those small cracks, or just wait until it can enter the whole picture? That’s the only thing I still have on my mind as the film ends.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Curiosa Films.
Directed by Claire Denis
Screenplay by Claire Denis, Christine Agnot, from Fragments d’un discours amoureux by Roland Barthes
Produced by Oliver Delbosc
Starring Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois, Philippe Katerine, Josiane Balasko, Sandrine Dumas, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Alex Descas, Laurent Grevill, Bruno Podalydès, Paul Blain, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Gérard Depardieu
Release Date: April 27, 2018
Running Time: 94 minutes