Recently I watched a stunningly moving Anglo-French film called “Departure” (2015). I feel compelled to share it with others because it was probably one of the most exceptionally rendered tales of love, angst, youth, relationships and self-discovery that I’ve seen in a long time.
Essentially it is the story of Elliot, an adolescent British boy, and his mother, Béatrice, who are back in the south of France during one fateful summer to sell what used to be their holiday home in the quiet, picturesque, French countryside. Elliot is young, sensitive, romantic and poetic: he wants to become a writer and capture “what it feels to be human”. The archetype of a crushingly vulnerable, androgynously mysterious and aching youth in search of himself and his sexual identity, portrayed brilliantly by Alex Lawther. Béatrice, the mother, comes with her own share of hidden skeletons, loneliness, melancholy and inhibitions: she doesn’t want to depart, at the same time she seems tormented by the idea of her life as it currently is. Why?
The mother-son axis is pierced orthogonally by a Parisian boy Clément, who Elliot spies swimming in the reservoir one day. Clément is rough around the edges, repairs motorbikes and doesn’t care much for poetry or drama; except that his own personal void draws him into a keen friendship with the instantly-smitten Elliot. What unravels is not just a Bildungsroman of anguish, exploration, discovery and disappointment. The film is an immensely nuanced and personable narrative of what it means to want to be loved, to be seen, to be heard — to matter to someone. To feel that someone cares that I am.
The director’s creative tonality and hues of expression really impressed me: the use of color and nature, the hues of blue and green, the artistic placing of characters in the frame, the movement of the camera during long shots, even the choice of furniture, props (like the tinted blue glass bottles and jars that we see early on in the scene) — everything lends a painter’s spirit to the movie.
The film is complex, multilayered, touching and yet punctuated with humorous and light moments of familial and friendly repartees. The end to this aching, soulful film might seem unsatisfying or abrupt — isn’t all of life, so very often?