Let It Rain

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Rome Film Festival

ROME -- “Let It Rain” starts off as yet another film set in a gorgeous French country house where the owners’ extended family arrive for a weekend. Yet little by little, the drama veers into more original and engrossing territory where it delicately brushes against race and gender issues. Not too dramatic, not too emotional, this story about a woman politician forced to examine her personal life and values won’t set cinemas on fire, but it has an appealing honesty that should please select audiences.

This is very much an actors’ film, not least because director-scripter Agnes Jaoui also appears in front of the camera in the well-seasoned role of Agathe Villanova, a workaholic Parisian pol who reluctantly returns home to the south of France to run for an election. There she is approached by Karim (Jamel Debbouze), the son of her family’s Algerian housekeeper and an aspiring filmmaker, to be the subject of a TV documentary he is making with “reporter” Michel Ronsard (played with conceited buffoonery by the excellent Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jaoui’s co-scripter.)

Surprise, Michel turns out to be the paramour of Agathe’s victim-sister (Pascale Arbillot), who is thinking of leaving her family for him. At the same time, happily married young Karim is saying no to a pretty co-worker who wants to bed him. And Agathe’s boyfriend gets so fed up with her self-centered life that he dumps her.

These love stories are just part of a whole symphony of strained relationships that involve all the characters. Long-time French residents Karim and his mother are victims of subtle but constant condescension. Agathe has to defend her choice to work and not have children, which she does very well in front of Karim’s implacable camera. (Though typically, Michel has forgotten to turn it on.)

All the films Jaoui has directed, which include Cannes-winner (for best screenplay) “Look at Me” and the Oscar-nominated “A Taste of Others,” are full of strikingly observed characters in familiar-looking social situations. This is the door through which viewers are invited to enter her world, democratically filled with conflicting aims and points of view. Her lightness of touch and sense of humor are well-paired with smart, just-right camerawork and sparing musical punctuation.

Production company: Les Films A4.
Cast: Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jamel Debbouze, Pascale Arbillot, Frederic Pierrot, Florence Loiret-Caille, Guillaume de Tonquedec, Mimouna Hadji.
Director: Agnes Jaoui.
Screenwriters: Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri.
Producers: Jean-Philippe Andraca, Christian Berard.
Director of photography: David Quesemand.
Production designer: Christian Marti.
Costumes: Eve-Marie Arnault.
Editor: Francois Gedigier.
Sales Agent: Studio Canal.
No rating, 98 minutes.


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