Passion is a powerful idea, no more so than for Suzanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), the suburban housewife of well-to-do doctor Samuel (Yvan Attal). Hoping to reignite the feeling she has lost for her husband in some other way, she plans to reopen a physiotherapy office in their home’s outbuilding. Ivan (Sergi López) is hired illegally to do the necessary work but inadvertadly acts as the catalyst for Suzanne’s rediscovery of true happiness, a fact that Samuel cannot accept.
With “I’ve Loved You So Long” Scott-Thomas quickly redeemed herself in my eyes after the nausea-inducing “The English Patient”, yet here she returns to that familiar ground despite some headway being made. Her acting is no long cold and aloof like it was with Fiennes. However even when portraying something innately human and vulnerable, she cannot overcome the tired melodrama of Catherine Corsini’s writing and director. Both she and López rally against the material given to them as best they can, invigorating their own little microcosm but this cannot escape the rest of the piece’s failings for long.
In spite of one’s ability to suspend disbelief and accept that these two people could fall so irreparably in love with one another so short a period of time, the melodrama borders on irrational. Whereas her last vehicle deftly transformed a constant sense of foreboding into an altogether ominous presence, “Partir” is incapable of doing the same, drawing attention to the glaringly obvious conventions used to torture the two lovebirds. Not even Von Trier would utilize such flawed tools, choosing to at least inflict harm in a new and evocative way.
Editing is of even less help, skimming over large sections of story, inevitably the happier periods before their descent into outright ludicrous behaviour. As a result, the misery inflicted upon them with such rapid frequency leads to a lull in sympathy when it is needed most along with a leaden feel for its breezy 85 minute running time. Samuel also suffers greatly from negative editing, the focus being taken away from him from the outset, making a eunuch out of his personal development and thus reducing him into another omniscient evil in an already clouded sky. The scenes he shares with Suzanne, even when at their most intense never have the gravitas they need, vilifying him in the most cartoonish of manners rather than creating a real threat.
Incongruous to the very last scene, viewing the leads’ performances distinctly from the rest of the picture is the only way I found myself believing in their plight.