Release Date: July 7th, 2006 (Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by Shadow Distribution.
The Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young, Louise Portal, Ménothy Cesar, Lys Ambroise, Jackenson Pierre Olmo Diaz, Wilfried Paul.
Directed by Laurent Cantet.
In French with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: In the late 1970’s, three middle-aged women, Ellen (Rampling), Brenda (Young), and Sue (Portal), head south to Haiti where they flirt with a young Haitian named Legba (Cesar).
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Heading South has so much character development and an organic plot, it remains fascinating and engaging from first frame to last. During the first act, Brenda, Ellen and Sue befriend each other at a Haitian beach resort during their vacation. At the beach, Sue, who comes from Canada, finds herself a young Haitan teenager. Brenda visits the beach for the third year in a row to see Legba, a young Haitian teenager who frequents the beach and who had once given her her first orgasm. Meanwhile, Ellen, a Wellesley professor, also has her eye on Legba and wants him as her sexual partner. Not surprisingly, Ellen ends up in a love triangle between Legba and Brenda, but co-writer/director Laurent Canter handles any dramatic scenes between them with sophistication and sensitivity without going over-the-top. In oddly fascinating scenes, each of the three women get their own monologues where they explain their desires in front of the camera. Charlotte Rampling, as usual, gives a luminous performance which proves how easily she can sink into any role. What develops could have been a sleazy, redundant mess, but fortunately, Canter focuses more on character development and atmosphere rather than shock value and contrivances. On top of that, the picturesque cinematography celebrates the beauty of the Haitian beach so that you’re just as enchanted by the sights as the middle-aged vacationers who just want to have some fun for a change.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: In many ways, Legba represents sexual freedom and desire. Clearly, Brenda, Sue and Ellen want to escape their dreary lives outside of Haiti, so they escape to this Haitian beach to relax their mind and, essentially, to feel rejuvenated. This rejuvenation makes them feel alive and, at least for a brief period of time, content. Moreover, they yearn to share their love and happiness, which accounts for their frequent generosity and caring of their young Haitian lovers.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: A true gem. Luminous and breathtaking. Sophisticated and fascinating with terrific performances.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "H" Menu