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An Affair to Remercier

Leaving (2009)

Laurent Champoussin/IFC Films

Kristin Scott Thomas has never won an Academy Award, and she won’t for her work in “Leaving,” her latest. But let’s be clear: The “English Patient” star is among the finest actors of her generation.

Here, the 50-year-old grabs hold of a sharp — if trashy — screenplay from writer-director Catherine Corsini and lifts it far above standard adultery drama territory. This is not “Fatal Attraction” or “Unfaithful,” movies predicated on guilt, cuckolding and the thrill of misbehavior. Rather, in its star’s able hands, the picture becomes the effective story of a woman opening up and finding the strength to advocate for her desires for the first time.

In a French-language performance rife with conviction, Ms. Scott Thomas imbues the adulterous housewife Suzanne with a complex range of emotions. She projects sexiness and sadness, joy and anger often all at once, as the character escapes her marriage to wealthy businessman Samuel (Yvan Attal) for the dreamy but broke Catalan day laborer Ivan (Sergi López). When Samuel goes after Suzanne where it hurts — her wallet — she’s forced to drastically rework her sense of self and fight to retain the dignity she’s earned.

From the lavish home Suzanne abandons to the sun-lit, tree-covered hills of the lovers’ preferred romantic escape, the film offers an endless stream of sumptuous visuals. Those and the operatic score (lifted from the films of François Truffaut), an engagingly conniving white-collar villain and hot sex scenes generate an involving, old-fashioned romantic drama. Seductive is not too strong a word for Ms. Corsini’s milieu.

But the movie’s real allure is found in the ways its star flicks her hair, darts her eyes and moves — tenderly, slowly and passionately — across each frame. She’s something to see, a performer to treasure. And we must all start paying attention.


Opens on Oct. 1 in Manhattan.

Directed by Catherine Corsini; written by Ms. Corsini and Gaëlle Macé; director of photography, Agnès Godard; edited by Simon Jacquet; sets by Laurent Ott; costumes by Anne Schotte; produced by Fabienne Vonier; released by IFC Films. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Kristin Scott Thomas (Suzanne), Sergi López (Ivan), Yvan Attal (Samuel), Bernard Blancan (Rémi), Aladin Reibel (Dubreuil), Alexandre Vidal (David) and Daisy Broom (Marion).


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