Partir (Leaving)

A fine line divides madness and rational thought in Catherine Corsini’s psychological study of dissatisfied Suzanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), the bourgeois wife of a doctor, and mother to two unappreciative teenagers. The plot’s bare bones (housewife falls in love with beefy Spanish builder) suggest something of a cliché, but this is not the case: Corsini ensures Partir has all the intensity of a German opera. Jealousy, impulsiveness and violence form the motor, turning the story, and we watch as each of Suzanne’s decisions drive her closer to a dangerous edge. She confuses, perhaps, lust for love, leaves her husband (Yvan Attal), children and financial security, and pursues a life of penniless ‘emotional truth’.

On surface-level it is difficult to believe that the elegant Suzanne, in the body of Scott Thomas, would fall for an uneducated builder with a criminal record. Yet there is beauty in this: if he were tall, handsome and rich then Corsini would have delivered a modern fairytale, with wafting stereotypes, inducing us to sleep-walk through its predictable narrative. Instead, Suzanne’s decision to pursue a man so different to her husband, makes her a woman rooted to the earth, a woman who is attracted to visceral experience and who needs to turn her back on bourgeois affectation.

Corsini’s chilly, intense focus on Scott Thomas’ glacial melt-down and hard panic (when her controlling husband freezes the bank account and has her lover, played by Sergi López, arrested) is compelling. All other characters rest in pleasing peripheral vision, making Suzanne’s discontent burn us deeply. So much so, her last shocking attempt to restore hope to her life can be seen as the most rational decision she makes.

Director: Catherine Corsini

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