Review: Let Me Go
- Maxime Rappaz’s debut feature film depicts the torments of a complex character who’s trying to free herself from a prison of her own making
In Let Me Go [+see also:
film profile], Swiss director from the world of fashion Maxime Rappaz treats us to a portrait of a middle-age woman who is forced, perhaps for the first time, to confront the reality of a life which weighs upon her like a burden. Because, despite the fact that Claudine is a seemingly independent woman who’s raising her son with a psychomotor disability alone, her life is nothing but a daily re-reading of the same grotesque script which sees her playing the role of a martyr. But what happens when masks fall and when desire outweighs social conventions?
Presented in the opening slot of the Cannes Film Festival’s ACID line-up and in competition within the Zurich Film Festival’s Focus session where it won a Special Mention, Let Me Go follows Claudine, a seemingly straightforward fifty-year-old woman (Jeanne Balibar, dominating each and every scene with her unmistakeable presence) who heads to a hotel in the mountains every Tuesday to hang out with men passing through. These fleeting sexual encounters are destabilising in their disconcerting banality but help her to escape a now stifling life. Claudine feels genuine affection for her son (Pierre-Antoine Dubey) who lives with a psychomotor disability, but she has always put her own needs and desires to one side, as if her role as a mother quashes and silences any kind of rebellion. Her life is turned upside down, however, by an unexpected encounter with a man (Thomas Sarbacher) who decides to stay in Switzerland for longer than planned. Overwhelmed by a vortex of long-repressed emotions, our protagonist dangerously allows herself to be swept away, dreaming of a different life where she can finally feel free.
A fascinating yet destabilising presence and an elusive character who embarks on long walks in the mountains every week wearing elegant high heeled shoes, Claudine alone decides what to do, when to stop and what game to play with her transient lovers. This ambiguous and intriguing character finds herself managing tensions which are increasingly hard to contain, contradictory impulses which torment her to the core: a burning desire for personal affirmation, for a freedom which she feels she deserves, and silent acceptance of her condition as mother-martyr who’ll do anything to protect her son, which she sees as her own personal battle. Jeanne Balibar masterfully conveys these ambivalent aspects, these contradictions which burn inside of her, extinguishing any revolutionary fervour. Claudine’s daily life becomes her shell, the ideal excuse to not take care of her needs and desires, to not give in to a freedom which she craves and fears simultaneously.
Rappaz portrays a woman who only knows how to play socially defined roles: mother courage, passionate lover, good worker; a woman who has never allowed herself the luxury of wondering what she really wants and what her dreams are. Grey zones relating to a maternal instinct which heteropatriarchal society sees as innate, are bravely depicted, translated into images of frighteningly majestic Alpine landscapes. The relationship between Claudine and her lover might sometimes feel too much (as per the sex scene where they’re immersed in almost paradisiacal surrounds, for example), leading us to believe that only (hetero) sex has the power to heal us from wrenching inner turmoil, but Rappaz does successfully sidestep (and we’re grateful to him for it!) the happy ending trap. Although Claudine makes us think that she can free herself - as if by magic and through love - from her agony, she eventually realises that she’s married to it. Her salvation, therefore, doesn’t come so much from running away from her pain but from facing up to the darkness which both consumes and reassures her.
(Translated from Italian)
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