With this beautifully directed essay on personal loss and
what it means to be left alone, François Ozon continues
to prove he is one of the brightest lights of recent French cinema. Featuring a brave, understated performance from
the luminous Charlotte Rampling, Under the Sand is radically different from Ozon’s other films. The youthful exuberance and zany antics of Sitcom and Les amants criminels (Criminal Lovers) have been replaced by a wistful maturity and deeply moving sense of pain. More personal than his other work, the film conveys profound and subtle emotional truths.
Marie (Rampling) and Jean (Bruno Cremer) are a comfortable middle-class couple, satisfied with the daily rhythms and personal foibles that form the core of their life together. They are on the way to their summer house, a tradition that stretches back many years. Jean goes for a swim in the sea. Some hours later, Marie wakes from a nap to find he has not returned. She calls in the local lifeguards to try to locate him. There is no sign.
Months later, Marie has returned to Paris, and although she puts on a brave face, she remains a recluse. Her friends try to get her to start dating again, but she insists Jean is not dead, that he has his reasons for staying away, that he will return. Even when a body is found that matches his description, she denies its authenticity. But soon she no longer feels his presence and, after much cajoling, begins dating a charming publisher (Jacques Nolot) who helps her rediscover herself, emotionally and sexually. Yet she cannot quite shake her conviction that Jean is alive. (France, 2000. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 90 mins.)