Departure follows a British family to their rural French holiday home, where they prepare for its sale, in the midst of their struggle with changing relationships, sexuality, and loss. It is the debut feature from director Andrew Steggall.
The story revolves around a mother and son, played by Juliet Stevenson (Truly Madly Deeply, 1990), and Alex Lawther, who recently appeared as the young Alan Turing in the Imitation Game (2014). Proving to be one to watch, he is listed in the BAFTAS ‘Breakthrough Brit’ scheme. Lawther is faultless as Elliot, striving to break free from his mother’s stifling embrace. He longs so be sophisticated. Leaning, not so casually, in his little-drummer-boy jacket, he cites poetry at every opportunity. Though still too much of a petulant teenager to be particularly likeable, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the boy when his declarations of fact (designed to impress) unravel in front of him. GCSE French no doubt serving him well in his pursuit of the mercurial Clément, played by Phénix Brossard.
Juliet Stevenson’s performance is poignant. Her Beatrice is in a state of refusal – unable to accept the reality that she is losing those whom she holds dear: husband, home and son. The brooding nature of all the male characters serves to highlight her behaviour: emotional, irrational, and grasping.
Visually, Departure is absolutely beautiful. Each scene is framed to create the impression of an exquisite painting, whether landscape, portrait or still life. Cinema audiences will be rewarded with these immersive scenes. The pace is gentle, and dialogue halting as characters pick their way through awkward encounters, yet Departure makes for compelling viewing. The enjoyment lies in reading the characters during their silences, recognising their moments of realisation.
I recommend Departure for fans of Pawel Pawlikowski‘s My Summer of Love, which covers similar ground with regard to sexual experimentation, and dysfunctional family units.
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