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In Andrew Steggall's Departure, a boy comes to terms with his own sexuality while the marriage of his parents crumbles in Steggall's solemn, beautifully-shot drama.

Film Review: Andrew Steggall’s Delicate and Moving ‘Departure’

Alex Lawther and Juliet Stevenson in Andrew Steggall’s Departure.

Departure begins with Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) and her 15-year-old son, Elliot (Alex Lawther) arriving at their holiday home in the French countryside to pack it up for sale. It’s a mournful task, made more so by the fact that Beatrice’s marriage to Philip (Finbar Lynch) is crumbling, and the stress is putting the entire family on edge.

Elliot is irritable and self-centered, wandering around the village in a ragged peacoat while leaving Beatrice to do most of the work herself. It’s clear that their relationship was once very close, but circumstances have driven them apart.

When an attractive local youth, Clément (Phénix Brossard) enters their lives, both are drawn to him. Elliot is particularly smitten, and he asks Clément to come help with the packing as a way of getting closer. However, the boy seems to respond more to Beatrice, causing Elliot to quietly fume with jealousy. Of course, everything is quiet in this film, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Departure is the feature debut of stage director Andrew Steggall, and his theatrical experience is evident in its structure and the thoughtfulness of the performances. Indeed, it could easily be performed onstage. The always watchable Stevenson (Mona Lisa Smile) layers her character with quiet nuance. Lawther (The Imitation Game) is also quite convincing as Elliot, the aspiring poet who is given to exhibiting the pretensions of youth. Brossard is fine as the attractive lunk, Clément, and Lynch does well with his role as Philip, who response to the dissolution of his family is anger.

Steggall’s script is delicate and multi-layered. The relationship between mother and son, so fragile to begin with, becomes even more fractured with the arrival of Clément. As Elliot experiences the awakenings of his sexuality, Beatrice begins to find the strength to live for herself instead of others.

The production here is solid. The beautiful French countryside is gorgeously captured by cinematographer Brian Fawcett, and Jools Scott’s score is appropriate for the delicacy of the story. The sets, by Marie-Camille Riff-Sbrugnera, contribute richly to the atmosphere. This is not a film of sweeping dramatic peaks — it’s a solemn piece whose emotional impact is made all the more resonant for it.

Departure is available in the U.S. and Canada via Wolfe Video beginning March 7 on DVD and VOD and across all digital platforms including iTunes, Vimeo On Demand, and WolfeOnDemand.com and many major retailers.

About Kurt Gardner

Writer, critic and inbound marketing expert whose passion for odd culture knows no bounds.

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