Heading South (Vers Le Sud) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/07/2006

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Multi-layered, thought-provoking and ultimately moving film, with gorgeous photography and strong performances from the entire cast.

What's it all about?
Based on short stories by Dany Laferriere, Heading South stars Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young and Louise Portal as Ellen, Brenda and Sue, three middle-aged Western women sunning themselves in Haiti during Baby Doc Duvalier's horrific regime.

For a few dollars here and there the lonely women find sex and companionship amongst the local boys, such as the charismatic Legba (Menothy Cesar). However, it soon becomes apparent that Legba has his own problems.

The Good
Director Laurent Cantet makes a subtle but effective point by telling the story almost entirely from the point of view of the women, so Duvalier's dictatorship is always in the background but never referred to or shown. This pays off powerfully towards the end, when the female characters realise the consequences of their selfishness.

The performances are superb. Rampling is terrific as Ellen, the de facto leader of the women, whose position of power is threatened by Brenda's huge crush on (and previous relationship with) alpha male Legba. Cantet also makes terrific use of the stunning scenery and it's fascinating to contemplate the apparent paradise of the island setting in stark contrast with the brutal, hell-like reality of Duvalier's regime.

The Bad
At certain points in the film, Cantet has each of the three main female characters deliver to-camera monologues, like something out of an Alan Bennett play. This gives a strong flavour of the original short stories but threatens to interrupt the flow of the film, although they're extremely well acted.

In addition, Sue is under-developed and doesn't really get a story of her own, which is a shame, because she's an equally fascinating character.

Worth seeing?
In short, Heading South is a beautifully shot, superbly acted, thought-provoking and ultimately moving film with superb performances from all concerned. Recommended.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 19:45

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