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Leaving is a fairly conventional adultery drama from French writer/director Catherine Corsini. Kristin Scott Thomas stars as Suzanne, an English woman who has spent most of her adult life in France. She has been married for nearly two decades and her two children are almost completely grown up. No longer needing to concern herself with their daily care, Suzanne is looking to get back into the work force and has decided to start her own physical therapy business. She is converting a shed in her backyard into an office. The man hired for the job, a Spanish immigrant named Ivan (Sergi López, Ricky), hurts himself trying to stop Suzanne's car when she forgets to set her parking brake, and to help him out during his recovery, she drives him to visit his daughter. On that road trip, Ivan kisses her, and an affair begins.
Most of Leaving charts the aftermath of this infidelity. Unable to lie to her spouse (Yvan Attal, My Wife is an Actress), Suzanne admits her cheating after the first time she and Ivan have sex. She ends up ditching her husband, who freezes her out of the family assets, and though you'd think two grown adults could make their way in the world, Suzanne and Ivan I guess are spending too much time rutting and not enough time looking for jobs, because pretty soon they are in debt. Events continue to spiral until there is no fixing the bad mistakes they've made.
There is very little to distinguish Leaving from other movies of this sort. It is as bland and unimaginative as its single-word title. The narrative arc is without surprise or innovation, and so is Corsini's aesthetic approach. Leaving is not a visually inpired movie, nor is the dialogue particularly poetic or the scenario terribly insightful. In fact, if it weren't for the familiarity of the story outline, Leaving wouldn't have much at all. It's not particularly terrible, but it's also not particularly good. Leaving just...well, it just is.
The only thing that will likely keep you from reaching for your remote and stopping Leaving is the fact that it's got an excellent cast. Kristin Scott Thomas in particular is fantastic as Suzanne. She is an actress of such accomplishment that the performance is barely perceptible. Her every moment on screen comes off as authentically lived. The downside to that is that with a character as unsympathetic as Suzanne, a believable performance just means you will hate her all the more. Her actions are wholly selfish and Corsini gives us no reason to be on her side. Sure, her husband is a real bastard after she walks out on him, but it's not like any of us would behave any better if we were wronged in the same way. One could almost mistake Leaving for a movie about mature relationships, except that when it comes down to it, Suzanne and Ivan are just childish.
Honestly, I wanted to like Leaving more, but the further away from it I get, the less regard I have for it. I am completely at a loss as to what Catherine Corsini wanted me to take away from her motion picture. Perhaps she wanted to illustrate that sex reduces even middle-aged people to horny teenagers--but even then, what am I supposed to do with that rather banal revelation? I felt nothing for these characters by film's end except a smug satisfaction that they were getting what they deserved, and somehow I don't think that was Corsini's intention any more than it was her intention to bore me so thoroughly. All the worse, then, that the finale feels like such a cop-out. Even with her telegraphing what was going to happen in the opening scene, Corsini never manages to effectively build to the climactic moment; rather, it seems that for lack of a better ending, she has come up with a quick solution to get herself out of the scenario she's created, saving her the trouble of actually having to make a point or come up with a legitimate solution to her characters' dilemmas. Instead, a rash action makes for a hasty exit, and Leaving fades to black.
The Leaving DVD has a widescreen anamorphic transfer at the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The image quality is decent, with solid resolution and nicely rendered colors. I noticed only minor edge enhancement, and otherwise there were no real problems with pixilation or poor digital rendering.
The original French soundtrack has been given a 5.1 remix that is fine, though it doesn't really take much advantage of the multi-channel format. There aren't really any atmospheric effects, the audio travels almost entirely right down the middle. It's fine, you can hear everything clearly, it's just not very involving.
There are optional English subtitles and also an option for Spanish subtitles.
Just a theatrical trailer.
Skip It. I was on the fence, I was pretty close to suggesting you rent Leaving, if for no other reason than to watch Kristin Scott Thomas do her thing. The more I thought about it, though, the more the dullness set in. This tale of infidelity and the ultimate destruction of the marriage of middle-aged, middle-class French people is all surface with very little by way of genuine feeling. Like the bad union it depicts, it's a lot of going through the motions, and before long, you have less interest in being a part of it than even the characters do.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.
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