Leaving -- Film Review

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PARIS -- The plot of Catherine Corsini's "Leaving" can be summed up like this: Bored middle-class housewife Suzanne leaves her well-to-do doctor husband to start a new life with a day laborer, and it's downhill from then on.

This blend of a classic adultery story and class conflict invites comparisons to Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley," a boxoffice and critical hit two years ago. Corsini's movie will appeal to similar audiences, though whether with similar success remains to be seen.

Middle-class she might be, but Suzanne is played by Kristin Scott Thomas, which brings the character well into Lady Chatterley territory. Husband Samuel (Yvan Attal) is boorish but well-connected. When Suzanne tells him she has fallen for, and what's more slept with, a Spanish laborer named Ivan (Sergi Lopez) who is employed illegally, Samuel opts -- unlike D.H. Lawrence's aristocrat -- to play hardball. He pulls every string he can to make life impossible for his estranged wife and lover.

To work well, the formula requires the audience to be won over -- if not to sympathy with the adulterous lovers at least to belief in the reality of their passion. It's by no means clear that Corsini has achieved this.

Scott Thomas is an accomplished actress who can do passion as well as she can do light comedy. But she never quite convinces as a woman prepared to endure every humiliation to pursue her dream of a new life. In a role that feels underdeveloped, Lopez is two-dimensional. Attal, by contrast, fairly blazes off the screen.

When Samuel tells Suzanne, "You're my wife, you owe me an explanation," you're inclined to say, well, yes, actually, he's right. His jibe, "Playing the bourgeoisie and the prole -- is that what turns you on?" also hits near the mark.

Corsini ups the stakes and sets the tone by announcing the film's tragic outcome in a short prologue, relating the story as an extended flashback. Georges Delerue's soundtrack is a nod in the direction of Francois Truffaut, another chronicler of willful female passion.

The direction is proficient, the production is flawless, the landscapes are never less than sun-drenched, and the comparisons with illustrious predecessors are not wholly misplaced. But where, the more demanding filmgoer will ask, is the added value, the spark of inspiration that makes for a must-see movie rather than a worthy night out?

Release date in France: Aug. 12
Production companies: Pyramide Productions, Camera One, Vmp, Solaire Production
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Sergi Lopez, Yvan Attal, Bernard Blancan, Aladin Reibel, Alexandre Vidal, Daisy Broom, Berta Esquirol, Gerard Lartigau
Director: Catherine Corsini
Writers: Catherine Corsini, Gaelle Mace
Producers: Fabienne Vonier, Michel Seydoux
Photography: Agnes Godard
Editor: Simon Jacquet
Production design: Laurent Ott
Sales: Pyramide International
No rating, 85 minutes
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