Let the Sunshine In

Juliette Binoche seeks a soulmate

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The movie is called Let the Sunshine In, but don’t think about the title. It has nothing to do with this Claire Denis film, and no one ever uses those words over the course of the movie. The French title—Un beau soleil interieur (a beautiful inner sun)—is more in the right spirit. It’s a deep and moving investigation into one woman’s inner struggle as she goes about looking for true love.

A mix of comedy and drama, Let the Sunshine In has an ironic, self-knowing quality that at the same time allows for plunges into raw emotion. People act silly, but the silliness comes from needs central to human happiness. Denis has never been a sentimental filmmaker, but she has always been aware, in a clear-eyed way, of what every French filmmaker seems to know, that love is the whole ballgame. This has produced some unforgettable moments in her films, such as the beautiful sequence in Nenette and Boni, in which a husband watches his wife with loving awe as she goes about doing chores to the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.”

In Let the Sunshine In, Juliette Binoche becomes the ideal actress to put over Denis’ vision. She can go from laughter to tears and back again to laughter in practically the same sentence, because her emotions are so on the surface. Binoche seems to carry with her an awareness of absurdity, which keeps her from ever being maudlin. As Isabelle—a divorced woman around 50, a successful artist still hoping to find the love of her life—Binoche doesn’t take herself seriously, even as she takes her situation very seriously.

Clearly, Isabelle isn’t meeting the right men. We first find her in bed with her married lover, a sleazy banker who tells her, “I’ll answer the question you’re not asking. I’ll never leave my wife. You are charming, but my wife is extraordinary.” Xavier Beauvois—the director of great films such as Le Petit Lieutenant and Of Gods and Men—plays the banker with a self-satisfied smugness just short of comedy.

Other men follow, all of whom are a bit less ridiculous. But we come to see Isabelle as the victim of an unequal situation. As someone looking for the ultimate, she automatically has more invested in each encounter. And perhaps the men she meets can sense this, and they use this to their advantage.

If this were an American movie, Let the Sunshine In would really be about letting in the sunshine, about working some internal change to bring about immediate positive results. It would be all about seeing lots of wrong guys on the way to the ideal one, and maybe about recognizing the ideal one against all odds—the meeting cute, the fake arguments, the sudden, unexpected realizations, the swelling of the soundtrack. You know, the usual thing.

Don’t expect the usual thing here. Let the Sunshine In is its own thing. It’s about the phenomenon, the state of life, of wanting somebody. And it’s particularly about being in that situation well into midlife, as in a decade past the actual midpoint. It’s about the attendant pains and awkwardness of that state, but also the dignity of it, the desire, the belief involved, and the willingness to take risks. As such, it’s a true original and a major achievement, the clearest and most moving work from Denis in years.

As for Binoche, she brings to every moment and every encounter, whether with friends, lovers or business associates, a complete, in-the-moment freshness and yet a wealth of life experience. She gets us to a point with Isabelle that we feel that we know what she’s thinking, without her needing to say anything. It’s a role that calls for wit, spontaneity, warmth, loquaciousness, raw-edged jumpiness and deep-revolving internality, and Binoche finds all of it, and with seeming ease, as if merely living and reacting. It’s the great Binoche performance of the decade.

More Film...
A family in flames

We are living in an age where wildfires have become such a destructive physical force that they’ve lost some of their potency as metaphors. Wildlife, an intimate new family drama set in 1960 and based on a 1990 novel by Richard Ford, feels like a relic in the sense that it deals with…

more »
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy gets real

Recently, in writing about A Star Is Born, I remarked on how unexceptional it was for a singer—in this case, Lady Gaga—to excel as a dramatic actor. It is no less unexceptional for a comedic actor to excel in drama, a truism demonstrated yet again by Melissa McCarthy in the marvelous Can…

more »
Bohemian Rhapsody
Queen by the numbers

“We don’t follow formulas,” say the members of Queen, circa 1975, but anyone hoping for this Freddie Mercury biopic to take its cue from the rock-operatic masterpiece of the title will be disappointed. Rami Malek’s excellent performance aside, it feels less a pioneering musical…

more »
Home for the Holidays

5:00pm|Ferndale Events Center

You Can't Take It With You

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

9 to 5, the Musical

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

Seven Supermans

7:30pm|Heiner Theatre

Waiting for Godot

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Romeo and Juliet

7:00pm|Sehome High School Little Theatre

A Chorus Line

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Secret Agents, LOL-apalooza

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

A Chorus Line

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Gardenview Montessori Holiday Bazaar

9:00am|Gardenview Montessori

Turkey Trot with GBRC

9:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Willow Creek

Christmas in the Woods Open House

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

South Fork Winterfest

10:00am|Van Zandt Community Hall

Holiday at the Port Farmers Market

10:00am|Port Transit Shed

Stuff the Trunk

10:00am|Haggen stores

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am| Depot Market Square

Poetry Workshops

10:00am|Mindport Exhibits

Anything Goes Arts and Crafts

10:30am|Sumas Library

Wine and Shop Weekend

11:00am|Eagle Haven Winery

Gnocchi Class

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Needle Felting Workshop

1:00pm|Skagit City School

Coffee and Conversation with Surge Artists

1:30pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Fishboy Holiday Show

2:00pm|FishBoy Gallery

A Local Treasure

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Beatles Sing-Along and Jam

2:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Welcome to the 20th century


Pacific NW Insects

4:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Wine & Beer Festival

4:00pm|Eaglemont Golf Club

Last Call Group Reading

7:00pm|Village Books

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Sacred Heart Social Hall

A Light in the Darkness

7:00pm|Church of the Assumption

Seattle International Comedy Competition



8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Village Books
9 to 5, the Musical

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

A Chorus Line

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

A Chorus Line

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Holiday at the Port Farmers Market

10:00am|Port Transit Shed

Wine and Shop Weekend

11:00am|Eagle Haven Winery

Sedro-Woolley Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Langar in Lynden

11:00am|Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Norah Rendell and the Lost Forty

2:00pm|Bellingham YWCA

Hope-Filled Dreams

2:30pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Sing-Along Sound of Music

3:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Poetry Duo

4:00pm|Village Books

Four Pair, An Evening of Duets

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Traveling with the Thurbers

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library


8:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Seattle Comedy Trove Web
Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Wheelchair Gangball

3:30pm|Bloedel Donovan


7:00pm|Alternative Library


9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books Seattle Comedy Trove Web