Title: La Belle Saison
Director: Catherine Corsini
Writers: Catherine Corsini, Laurette Polmanss
Stars: Cecile De France, Izia Higelin
Release Date: In cinemas now.
Review by: Dave Griffiths
Normally when a film is made centering around the romance genre, you can expect something light and fluffy with a little bit of cheesiness to round it off. That certainly isn’t the case with new French film La Belle Saison. It may be set back in the 1970s, but it explores topics that are very relevant today.
Set in France in 1971, La Belle Saison sees young Delphine (Izia Higelin – Bad Girl) leave her parent’s farm and go to find work in Paris. While in Paris, Delphine’s eyes are opened and her ideals are awoken as she joins a group passionate about bringing women’s rights to France. It’s while taking part in activities with this group that Delphine meets young teacher, Carole (Cecile De France – Hereafter) and falls madly in love with her. Their relationship hits a snag though when Delphine’s father becomes ill and she returns to the farm to work. She’s suddenly faced with the daunting prospect of having to tell her mother and her local community that she is gay while trying to prove that a woman can indeed be a farmer.
La Belle Saison certainly touches on some pretty deep topics. As if showing the audience how difficult it was to protest for women’s rights in 1970s France, the film then explores deeper topics as it looks at one woman having to tell her partner that she has fallen for a female while the other woman in the relationship has to face telling her parents that she is gay. The fact that this film does it in such a way that it never becomes preachy really is a credit to filmmaker, Catherine Corsini (Leaving).
As an audience member, La Belle Saison is the kind of film that sticks with you. Corsini has shot this film in a way that it captures the true beauty of the French countryside, but at the same time it has captured some emotionally draining scenes as Delphine and Carole’s relationship causes ripples for those around them. By the time the film reaches the point where Delphine has to make the biggest decision of her life, the film has you on the edge of your seat in the same way that a thriller would.
Teaming up beautifully with their director, actresses Cecile De France and Izia Higelin make their characters people that the audience quickly warms to, which in return makes the audience want to see them both happy. Often when a character cheats on your partner, the audience can turn on them yet somehow here Corsini and De France expertly dodge this and have you wanting Carole to end up in Delphine’s arms. The performances by both Higelin and De France are truly sensational and, believe me, if this film was American we would be talking about Oscars for both of them. They both need to be truly congratulated for delivering two of the most powerful performances of the year.
While in my view last year’s film Carol failed in delivering a powerful message about gay rights and the women’s liberation moment, La Belle Saison hits its mark very, very well. With two brilliant performances from its leading ladies and a strong storyline that makes its audience really think this is one of the most powerful films of 2016.