The exquisite Juliette Binoche, adored by the camera, gives one of the finest performances of her career in “Let the Sunshine In,” insightfully directed by Claire Denis from a screenplay that she wrote with Christine Angot. The story clearly unravels from a woman’s viewpoint, reflecting the perspective of Denis and Angot and given life by Binoche.
Isabelle (Binoche) is an artist who consistently gets involved with the wrong men as she seeks romance and a permanent relationship. She likes sex, but is depressed when it doesn’t lead to what she would want in life. Isabelle has a young daughter from a broken marriage, but we only get a glimpse of her, as the film concentrates on Isabelle’s relationships with men, including a bedroom fling with her ex.
She isn’t likely to find happiness with the boorish married man we find her with at the outset of the film, a banker well played by Xavier Beauvois, who is married and makes it clear that he will never leave his wife. There is an ugly side to him in his condescending behavior toward his mistress. Their sex together is unsatisfactory, as we see at the outset in a very explicit lovemaking scene.
Isabelle also falls for an egotistical but sexually appealing actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle.) We quickly know that tumbling into bed with him won’t lead anywhere either. And so it goes.
What Isabelle really needs is to come to terms with her own self-worth, and grow from a life being defined by relationships with men. As part of her journey, she seeks the advice of a fortune teller who turns up near the end of the film and is played by Gérard Depardieu. It is a very amusing turn by Dépardieu, who spouts a series of what-ifs about who may be coming into her life and how she should react, hypothetical situations with contrary advice. It adds up to a load of soothsayer bull, and it is fun to watch Dépardieu’s performance and also to see Binoche’s facial expressions that show her reactions, including hopes and disappointments as the litany is laid out before her.
In fact, one of the strong points of Binoche’s acting is how effectively she registers reactions. She dominates “Let the Sunshine In” almost completely, and Denis gives her free rein to delineate a portrait of a woman in turmoil. One can lose patience with the character as someone who keeps acting against her own interests. But one is thoroughly enthralled by Binoche, who gives a powerfully impressive performance and is the main reason for seeing this smartly conceived and directed film. An IFC Films release. Reviewed April 26, 2018.