Contemporary French cinema has carved out a lovely niche for itself. Averse to the big budget action adventure films or the labor intensive animated works, the French have perfected the intimate drama, usually focused on a family or small community at a time of transition, if not outright crisis. The dynamics and problems dramatized ripple far beyond the film's circumscribed world, suggesting universal issues immediately recognizable. In Let It Rain several themes resonate: the equal treatment of men and women, the temptation to cheat on one's spouse, and the intractable feelings that restrict an individual's psychological development.
Co-writer/director Agnes Jaoui integrates these immediately recognizable, very human concerns quite seamlessly into casual events. The considerable benefits are that viewers, at a comfortable distance, recognize some of their own weaknesses without feeling particularly challenged or defensive. We gain insight, perhaps even a measure of beneficial acceptance. It often seems as if so little is happening as depths of insight into vulnerability and need emerge.
At the center of the action in Let It Rain sits Agathe, played by director Jaoui. An avowed feminist involved in politics in her hometown three hours south of Paris, Agathe meets there with her sister Florence to wrap up their deceased mother's affairs. Agathe also agrees to participate in a TV documentary on successful women. The incompetency and problems of that film's director Michel and its cinematographer Karim provide light comic relief as lives intertwine in revealing ways. Michel and Florence carry on an affair while her husband dotes in smothering ways married. Karim resists extramarital involvement with a hotel receptionist who flirts with him. Agathe neglects her lover. Florence's children annoy her in contrast to Karim's mother, a calm steady presence and Florence's housekeeper. Michel misses his son, and Karim complains of negative treatment as a French Algerian.
These complex individuals develop at a casual, measured pace that invites the viewer to share their experiences. I found Let It Rain as delightful as an afternoon with new friends who laugh and love, fail and triumph in equal measure. In French with English subtitles, at Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Theatre.