VIFF 2023: Let Me Go (Laissez-moi)

Directed by: Maxime Rappaz
Distributed by: TBD

Written by Michael Clawson

A middle-aged single mother, the glamorous and self-possessed Claudine (Jeanne Balibar) is raising her disabled son Baptiste in the Swiss Alps. She works as a seamstress, fashioning wedding dresses and mending garments for neighboring women, who are the closest thing she has to friends. As for male companionship, Claudine regularly seeks out physical intimacy with men passing through the area, but actively avoids the possibility of forging romantic connections. On a weekly basis, she takes the train to a nearby alpine hotel, where a young staffer helpfully notes for her which of the male guests are traveling alone and soon to be leaving town. Claudine desires sex and nothing else from the men she comes onto – by sleeping with men who will be out of her life in a day or two days’ time, Claudine eschews the emotional baggage of a relationship that might complicate life with her son. But things change when Claudine develops feelings for Michael, an engineer in town for a work project.

Director Maxime Rappaz brings this romantic drama to life through an aesthetic that is warm and polished. The crisp direction suits Claudine’s personal style: she looks like a movie star as she confidently enters the hotel each week wearing lipstick, large sunglasses, a trench-coat, and belted white dress. But as Claudine struggles to reconcile her role as a mother with a mounting desire for romance, the drama’s emotional tenor feels wobbly. Balibar’s boldly physical performance can lead to moments that are more awkward than moving, and the piano score needlessly overripens scenes of Claudine’s daily life. The frank treatment of Claudine’s sexuality is extremely welcome – the sex life of adult women is something that Hollywood movies are often still too afraid to show – but the trajectory of Michael and Claudine’s relationship is unpersuasive.

“Let Me Go” Trailer

“Let Me Go” was screened as part of the 2023 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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