Let the Sunshine In ★★★½

Some film sites are categorizing 'Let the Sunshine In' as a romantic comedy, and while I don't think I ever audibly laughed in response to the film's dry humor, I can at least see what they're getting at.

Despite an apparently rushed production schedule, director Claire Denis -- whose best 21st century feature remains '35 Shots of Rum', in my estimation -- and star Juliette Binoche deliver some absolutely dynamite conversational set pieces that are all essentially elaborations on the same theme. Namely, that when it comes to the matters of sex and love, we humans will say everything except what we really mean.

There's a lot of exhausting, circular argumentation and classically Gallic equivocation, which makes it sound insufferable, but it's actually pretty enthralling. One can detect dollop of Jane Austen in there, a touch of Tom Stoppard, and a whole herd of the kind of dickish, supercilious male characters who seem to populate French arthouse cinema.

Emotionally, 'Sunshine' is a bit undernourished, but damn if it isn't a pleasure to watch Binoche and her co-stars wrap their tongues around the film's cunning (and often cringe-worthy) dialog. Ultimately, it comes off more as a series of short films about the same character than as a cohesive story, which is fine as far as I'm concerned. Denis gets to flex her formal muscles with some glorious mise-en-scène, and in the process delivers a rare portrait of a fiftysomething, independent woman who is still figuring out what she wants, romantically speaking, and where she should be looking for it.