Let the Sunshine In
There’s still a lot to do, but an increasing number of female-orientated stories are finally coming to the foreground. Greta Gerwig debuted her solo filmmaking career with Lady Bird, her husband Noah Baumbach continues to create strong stories about women and Amy Sherman-Palladino wowed everyone (again) with her Amazon Prime series The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. So it’s disappointing to watch a female-centred story that is dull, unengaging and craving profundity – as Claire Denis’s latest film proves to be.
Let the Sunshine In follows the unfulfilled existence of Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), an artist desperate to find love – or even just an emotional connection. She is left depressed at every option: middle-aged banker Vincent (Xavier Beauvois) is a misogynistic control-freak – who treats the protagonist like a prostitute on every occasion – and the babbling theatre actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) doesn’t want sex at all. Consequently, the painter can’t find what she truly wants.
Denis explores the dissatisfaction of life and the lament for love and desire from a heterosexual female standpoint, engaging the audience with a tight view of Isabelle’s personality. God knows we’ve heard the male perspectives, and this is a refreshing change from the norm. But that’s as far as it goes. There are brief moments when we see the main character in her element; in one scene, she paints on a large floor-canvas and ignores the urgent knocking at her door. It’s a period of blissful respite that is never returned to, despite being one of the more intriguing aspects of the character. But Isabelle’s story is made tediously formulaic by the company of wearisome men – which may be the point, but Denis doesn’t reach beyond it.
As always, Binoche is captivating in her role, often playing loneliness with such tragic naturalism – as in Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue – and Let the Sunshine In showcases her emotional talents. Her performance is the film’s most striking quality, but the script by the French auteur and Christine Argot (based on a collection of writings by Roland Barthes) isn’t sharp or moving enough to match it.
Let the Sunshine In has its moments, evoking the modern chagrin involved with sex, dating and desire from an underseen female viewpoint. But the scenes are stretched and repetitive up to the very end, where the credits roll over an especially arduous dialogue scene. Perhaps Denis is aiming for monotony, but she can’t figure out how to make that interesting.
Let the Sunshine In is released nationwide on 20th April 2018.
Watch the trailer for Let the Sunshine In here: