Release Date: July 14th, 2006 (Angelika Films Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by Strand Releasing.
The Cast: Melvil Poupaud, Jeanne Moreau, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Daniel Duval, Marie Rivière, Louise-Anne Hippeau, Henri de Lorme, Christian Sengewald.
Directed by François Ozon.
In French with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: Romain (Poupaud), a young gay man diagnosed with terminally-ill cancer, comes to terms with his life after leaving his parents and his lover to bond with his grandmother (Moreau).
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Time to Leave gradually develops its thin plot, but remains engaging because of a complex, appealing main character and convincing performances. In the first act, Romain learns that he has terminal cancer which, according to the doctor, has less than a 5% chance of overcoming from it with chemo-therapy. Naturally, his performance at work as a fashion photographer declines and his dysfunctional relationship with his sister (Hippeau) culminates in a loud exchange of words over the dinner table. His relationship with his lover, Sasha (Sengewald) doesn’t look too good either. So, without letting anyone know of his illness, Romain packs up his bags and heads off to his grandmother, Laura, played by Jeanne Moreau who adds charisma and warmth to her role. Laura listens to him as he opens up to her. The plot gets slightly more interesting when Romain meets Jany (Tedeschi), a local waitress at a café who wants something very special from him—something that would make her and her husband very happy. All three of them form a strange bond that actually never feels contrived. Each scene feels true-to-life thanks to convincing performances, especially by Melvil Poupaud who not only behaves like he’s suffering inside but looks like it, too, on the outside. Fortunately, writer/director François Ozon doesn’t focus too much on Romain’s illness while being sensitive to Romain as a complex human being who wants to die in peace with himself. Ozon lets his characters breathe, so-to-speak, which gives them a life of their own. Many shots in the film are filled with exquisite cinematography and symbolism—i.e. a wilted flower. The third act feels particularly engrossing, especially in the final, visually-arresting scene.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Romain goes through a very difficult emotional journey throughout Time to Leave. While opening up to his grandmother, he learns a lot about himself, but, concurrently, he also learns a lot by spending time alone just to contemplate and observe his surroundings—i.e. by taking photographs. By stripping away his career and shunning himself from his immediate, dysfunctional family and his lover, he manages to appreciate the small moments in life that count and to make the most out his last days alive—and, most importantly, free.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Powerful, absorbing and resonating. Not-to-be-missed!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "T" Menu