While his newly single mother Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) packs up their holiday home in the South Of France, British teenager Elliot (Alex Lawther) develops a crush on a boy from the village, Clément (Phénix Brossard). As the boys become closer, Beatrice spends more time with Clément herself.
Hormones are raging in this beautifully shot, quietly involving character study powered by an excellent turn from teenaged talent Lawther, who played the young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. A sensitive young gay man with an almighty crush on a boy who may or may not return his feelings, Elliot has a few things in common with the young Turing, though he has more of an affinity with poetry than numbers. Flitting restlessly around the countryside wearing a battered military jacket, Elliot is a bored romantic in need of a project. When macho French boy Clément becomes a regular visitor, he enhances the fantasy life of Elliot as well as, potentially, his mother Beatrice.
It’s a credible portrait of privileged teenaged angst.
The horror of a mother flirting with her son’s new friend is communicated in a subtly witty fashion: Departure is acutely aware of Elliot’s social awkwardness, potential for embarrassment and his strained relationship with his mother. Showing events largely from his point of view, it’s a credible portrait of privileged teenaged angst where the potential source – divorce – is only tackled head on towards the end of the film.
It’s a visually stunning film, the rural setting captured beautifully by cinematographer Brian Fawcett. Stevenson is terrific as she wraps up the remnants of a marriage and struggles to connect with her son, but insight into her character is limited. The internal conflicts of Clément are interesting, but also only touched upon.
Writer-director Andrew Steggal’s greatest interest lies in the emotional turmoil of his excitable, sensitive young hero, who’s eager to jump out of the closet into the arms of a local bit of rough. Perhaps that’s as it should be: Departure is about a teenaged hero who is entirely wrapped up in himself and who idolises his fantasy figure: getting to know the boy’s flaws could break the spell.
A sensitive, sensual and occasionally amusing portrait of teenaged obsession with a winning turn from Lawther.