Time To Leave (le Temps Qui Reste)

on May 16, 2005 by Sheri Linden
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Francois Ozon, who with actress Charlotte Rampling created a haunting portrait of grieving in "Under the Sand," takes on the subject of dying in his new drama, with wan results. "Le temps qui reste" (literally "The Time That Remains" but translated for its Cannes screening as "Time to Leave") has its effective moments of restrained intimacy but lacks the depth to give the slow-going narrative much impact.

Romain (Melvil Poupaud) is an on-the-rise fashion photographer with the looks of a model who learns that he has inoperable cancer and, with a clear-eyed equanimity remarkable for a 31-year-old, refuses the ravages of chemotherapy and radiation. The film is an episodic depiction of his final months, during which he tells only his grandmother (Jeanne Moreau) that he's dying. In a refreshing departure from the tear-drenched reconciliation sagas that typically surround such characters, Romain sets out to clean emotional house. He delivers a brutal tongue-lashing to his single-parent sister, Sophie (Louise-Anne Hippeau), and asks his boyfriend, Sasha (Christian Sengewald), to move out. That upheaval proves more therapeutic than destructive; their passion for each other has long since cooled. Sasha, who considers Romain incapable of being alone, assumes he's found someone else -- making Romain's ensuing solitude all the more poignant. Jeanne Lapoirie's widescreen compositions accentuate the protagonist's emotional and spiritual isolation. But the film doesn't convey who he was to begin with, except in the broadest terms, and the rather obvious story arc -- fast-track careerist and party boy embraces a certain generosity as his physical self dwindles -- is unconvincing. It's not that every character facing death must pass through Kubler-Ross's five stages, but much of Romain's journey into that good night is so understated as to be beside the point. Working at a remove from direct emotional expression, Poupaud delivers what's asked of him, but only his scenes with Moreau (whose presence will be draw enough for some filmgoers) and with Daniel Duval, as his father, resonate with the ineffable sorrow of Romain's situation. A borderline-ludicrous plot strand involving a waitress (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) skates on the thin ice of life-affirming sentimentality, as do recurring images of Romain's childhood self. Starring Melvil Poupaud, Jeanne Moreau, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Daniel Duval, Marie Riviere, Christian Sengewald and Louise-Anne Hippeau. Directed and written by Francois Ozon. Produced by Olivier Delbosc and Marc Missonnier. No distributor set. Drama. French-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 82 min.

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