The idyllic Mediterranean setting that makes up the breathtaking, picturesque backdrop to Andrew Steggall’s Departure makes for a distinctively serene, placid environment which contradicts the drama and conflict that plays out in front of it, as we enter into the tempestuous, volatile situation concerning a distressed mother and her troubled teenage son.
It appears that Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) is going through a breakup with her husband Philip (Finbar Lynch), and so sets off to the South of France to clear away the family’s holiday home in order for it to be sold. Elliot (Alex Lawther) is bearing the unfortunate brunt of his parents forthcoming separation, as the very act of selling such a house equipped with so many memories is enough to bring a host of pent up emotions to the forefront for all involved. In the meantime Elliot meets the local Clément (Phénix Brossard) who he takes a liking to, while unsure as to whether such desires are reciprocated by the youngster, who is going through a tumultuous time of his own following his mother’s illness.
Steggall must be commended for his means of presenting this tale in such a seamless manner, with a myriad of conflicting, interweaving stories between these four characters. Departure is beautifully arranged too, as the camera lingers in the background, taking a voyeuristic approach, forever peering in from the outside and yet remaining so strikingly intimate in the process. Each character has been crafted well, with their own respective narrative for the audience to invest in, all while Steggall avoids any sense of melodrama, which is noteworthy given what transpires. That being said, the introduction of Philip is a step too far, and the film heads downhill as a result, and while nothing at all against Lynch’s performance, it’s just one narrative too many for us to adhere to. Not to mention the fact Philip is a far more menacing figure when elusive, as we each have our own interpretation of who he is, and what he may have done wrong – to meet him takes away from that illusion.
But where Departure is most striking is within the leading performance of Lawther, as a young actor destined for huge things within the industry. It’s one thing to lead a film, but to do so with such subtlety and come to terms with such a nuanced, complicated character, completely understanding who he is and what he’s going through, is immensely impressive.