Let the Sunshine In: A French ‘comedy’ of sexual misadventures

Review: Plot is series of fragmented episodes of people squabbling and embracing

Let the Sunshine In
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Director: Claire Denis
Cert: 15A
Genre: Drama
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Gérard Depardieu, Josiane Balasko, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Alex Descas, Laurent Grévill, Xavier Beauvois
Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins

Most of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan actually plays out on a boat, rather than the famous New York borough. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is short on spectres, canines and Ronin.

These titles, however, are significantly less misleading than Let the Sunshine In, the 12th feature from French auteur Claire Denis. We can tell you what this inappropriately named film is not: it is not, as previously reported, adapted from Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse: Fragments.

But what is it?

Structurally, the film can play like a weird, intellectualised inversion of a Nora Ephron comedy.


Juliette Binoche, playing 50-something artist Isabelle, is a smart woman who makes bad choices. Not too far into the series of fragmented encounters that pass for a plot, she tells a friend that she can only orgasm by thinking about how much of a bastard her banker lover is. Or by imagining him with a whore. Or by imagining him with his wife: "With her ugly, lifeless face."


This unusually talky Denis film opens mid-sex, as said bastard (Beauvois) pounds Isabelle joylessly. Afterwards, while fondling her breasts at a bar, he informs her that he won’t be leaving his wife: “You’re charming, but my wife is extraordinary. But you charm the pants of me. If we play it smart, it could be nice.” What a catch.

The banker is the first of several sexual misadventures. Agnès Godard’s intimate camerawork pans between people squabbling and embracing, as we go.

Make way for the troubled actor, an ex-husband who brings porn into the bedroom, and Gérard Depardieu’s fortune teller (yes, really) with an epic bit of mansplaining that keeps going throughout the final credits. “Painting may have a special importance for you,” he ’splains. “We’ll have to explore that later.”

Squint and add tinkling music and this could be a mordant Tinder hell comedy. But Denis, whose last film Bastards featured a teenager who was raped by a corncob, isn't exactly the funny-ha-ha sort. This is only a comedy in the same sense that the director's Trouble Every Day – the one in which Béatrice Dalle escapes her cage and bites strange men to death at night – is a love story.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic