Not even Juliet Stevenson and gay French holiday romances can really make this Departure land in a satisfying way
“We’re in France, French people talk about these things”
Near the top of my list of films to finally get around to watching, where it has been for a while, is Departure, written and directed by Andrew Steggall. His is a name that is familiar to me from the days when I regularly reviewed short films, as The Door was one of the more moodily memorable of those. Departure marked his feature film debut and with its heady mixture of gay boys on French holidays and Juliet Stevenson, it’s a wonder it has taken me this long to get round to watching it.
In some ways it does live up to that anticipation. Alex Lawther plays Elliott, a moody teenager marooned in the Languedoc village where his mother is packing up their family holiday home. His attention is far more focused on the strapping Clément who ends up helping with the move and in turn, offering something for Stevenson’s Beatrice to also be swayed by. Lawther plays the hypersensitive Elliott with a neatly sharp edge of self-absorption and what a joy it must be to have Stevenson in your cast – you can just write *cries in car* and she delivers heartbreaking work.
But for all the beautiful cinematography from Brian Fawcett, and the evocative original score by Jools Scott, something a little too arch emerges in Departure. A determination for poetic profundity is common to both Elliott and Steggall but where Lawther suggests something of the hopelessness of trying to be that deep whilst trying to make it with a hot French mec, Steggall indulges himself and his operatic ambition and it ultimately feels too forced. Moody vagueness only gets us so far.