Departure: The end of an era
by Jesús Silva
- Andrew Steggall’s directorial debut is a rewarding coming-of-age story focused on the relationship between a teenager and his mother, and the evolution experienced by both
The themes of sexual awakening, teenage longings and parental confrontation may seem like a recurring stamping ground for coming-of-age movies, but the first feature by British director Andrew Steggall manages to offer something unique by tackling the transformation undergone by a young man and his mother at a time of crucial changes. Starring Juliet Stevenson and Alex Lawther (who played the young version of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game [+see also:
film profile]), Departure had its world premiere in Dinard and is now screening within the LGBTQ and Explore Zone selections at the Film Fest Gent.
The action takes place over a week in a rural village in Southern France, where 16-year-old Elliot (Lawther) and his mother, Beatrice (Stevenson), are packing up the contents of their holiday home in order to sell it before coming back to England. While the former is struggling with his sexual awakening, the latter must face up to the decay of her marriage and her changing relationship with her son. Bold and handsome Clement shows up in the village to make the situation even more complex, becoming an object of desire for both members of the family. The last to arrive is Elliot's father, whose own secrets and sexuality are also exposed, triggering the collapse of the family and the end of an era.
Departure displays some stunning cinematography, enhanced by an excellent soundtrack full of references to the theme (like Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka). At the same time, it offers an engaging plot that keeps up its momentum without faltering at all during its 110-minute running time. Both the more introspective sequences and the vivid interactions – especially the encounters between three of the main characters – are wisely orchestrated to instil a wide range of emotions in the audience (giving rise to equal amounts of stress and intense sensuality).
Steggall’s debut is completely self-aware in terms of its stereotypes and clichés, as referred to by the characters themselves during the movie (who point at the sensitive and educated teenager who dreams of becoming a poet). This genre has already seen a plethora of LGBT and coming-of-age stories that share similar topics and concerns, but Departure is much more than that. It unfurls a singular narrative and portrays a profound evolution of its characters, topped off by an almost mythical setting and two strong leading performances, resulting in a deeply stimulating film that may easily become a modern classic.