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Time to Leave

December 5, 2010

Time to Leave (2005)
Director: Francois Ozon
Actors: Melvil Poupaud, Jeanne Moreau, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi

Synopsis: Romain (Melvil Poupaud) is a French fashion photographer living life in the fast lane. A devastating terminal illness diagnosis however, forces the focus of his life to shift dramatically….

Review: It’s hard to believe this work is from the same director responsible for such forgettable pastiches as Eight Women and Angel, although the masterly Charlotte Rampling drama Under the Sand is testament to the ability of Francois Ozon when he restricts himself to a simple dramatic premise, and follows it through with a seriousness of intent and able support from a top-notch cast. Time to Leave (or the French title, which I prefer, Le temps qui reste) is a beautifully restrained piece, documenting the final days of a young man with a fatal illness, but instead of using the subject matter as an excuse for sentimentality and mawkishness (as an American film might), Ozon goes interior – limiting the film’s running time to 75 minutes – hinting at the mini, rather than major, epiphanies his protagonist (brilliantly played by Melvil Poupaud) undergoes while processing the reality of his demise.

What Ozon does so successfully is to locate the incidental poignancies of his protagonist’s plight – so rather than scripting sequence after sequence of bathetic emoting, Ozon taps into the obvious detachment and alienation that a young person would feel when they learn they have such a sudden and fatal illness. This alienation is reflected in the most emotional scenes being the least obvious – from going to see his grandmother (rather than his parents), to watching on his sister and her children from afar (rather than actually speaking to them), and most radically of all – achieving his greatest level of intimacy in a one-night stand with a couple desperately trying to conceive a child. What Ozon also achieves is, dare I say it, a sense of Bressonian grace for his protagonist. For comparing the opening of the movie, with all its frenzy as Romain’s life as a top Parisian photographer is documented, by the end, the film’s tone is so watchful and lyrical, as Romain very movingly allows himself one last childhood reminiscence at a beach, before passing away on the very sands he played on when he was a young boy. (December 2010)

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