TIFF Report: Le Temps Qui Reste Review
France's Francois Ozon is one of the current darlings of world cinema, creator of a clutch of critically acclaimed films and yet still young enough to be considered one of the fresh faces of France. I have been soundly berated in the past for not having seen an Ozon film and so Le Temps Qui Reste became a must see at this year's Toronto Film Festival. Though well constructed and beautifully crafted I found Ozon's musings on death and mortality surprisingly conventional and familiar, particularly for a director with his reputation for innovation.
The film tells the story of Romain, a young fashion photographer. When he collapses on a film shoot one day Romain is rushed to hospital and informed that he has inoperable cancer and likely has only three months left to live. We then follow Romain as he attempts to deal with this news and come to terms with the inevitable end of his life.
At first it appears as though he is taking the news rather well but you soon see that he is collapsing in on himself. He refuses chemotherapy because he can't see the point and quickly isolates himself from his family and boyfriend, turning to drugs and anonymous sex for comfort. Will Romain self destruct before he comes to his natural conclusion or will he be able to find some sort of peace?
Ozon has put together a well crafted little film here. Romain is a thoroughly believable lead character, well played and well shot. The plot itself is minimal, but the film is not aiming for a story nearly so much as a character study, the point is to feel what Romain feels and Ozon accomplishes that admirably well. While the film is not a political statement per se – it is clearly not as dogmatic as Almenabar's The Sea Inside last year – he definitely does weigh in firmly on the pro death-with-dignity side of the right to die debate.
What is surprising here is not that this is a well crafted film, which I fully expected, but just how familiar it seems. Despite some plot quirks, which I'll not spoil, and a level of sexuality that separates the film from Hollywood product Le Temps Qui Reste feels like award-bait, one of those familiar films filled with 'difficult' roles that actors take on to target the little golden statues. Think Bardem in The Sea Inside and Hanks in Philadelphia. There's nothing wrong with that, per se, but I was quite surprised by how closely Ozon sticks to the standard 'noble dying man' script. There's ugliness, but not enough to turn you from the character; despair, but only temporary and not enough to bring you down; and, of course, when he dies he does so in as uplifting a manner as possible. Le Temps Qui Reste is certainly a solid film but I was expecting more.