I watched the French film Let It Rain this weekend because I read that the main character is a middle-aged, single feminist with no desire for children. Although the film’s story is slight, it takes on weighty matters, and the flawed characters are all dead-on portrayals, with each having touching moments of sadness and despair:
At the risk of being a tiresome Europhile, let me observe that nobody like Jaoui exists in American film. She’s an attractive, average-size woman, neither beautiful nor plain, with a forceful personality and a sharp tongue. (Outside her film career, she’s also an accomplished classical, folk and pop singer.) In “Let It Rain” she takes on such weighty topics as sexism, racism, adultery and long-buried family secrets, all in the guise of a carefully woven relationship comedy that’s consistently light in tone and never judgmental.
Bossy and free-spirited, Agathe, who resembles a more unguarded Katie Couric, can’t understand why her boyfriend, Antoine (Frédéric Pierrot), objects to her rules about their relationship; she won’t live with him and has no desire for children. As much as Antoine loves her, he feels like an afterthought tagging after her during the campaign. As she discovers upon entering the fray, arguing politics with friends in Paris is no preparation for the rough and tumble of the real thing…
Karim believes he has been looked down upon all his life for his ethnicity, and seethes with ambition and resentment. Michel, who is divorced with a young son, also feels discriminated against because his wife has custody of the boy. While interviewing Agathe, one of his first questions is why women usually get custody in divorce cases. As Michel repeatedly demonstrates his incompetence, Agathe is a surprisingly good sport until she becomes so angry she can barely speak…
“Let It Rain” is of a piece with Ms. Jaoui’s earlier films, “The Taste of Others” and “Look at Me,” whose minutely observed characters tend to be thin-skinned, competitive egotists invested in their status in the world of ideas. The movie captures the tone of urbane discourse with an astonishing awareness of the subtexts of every nervous remark.
If there is an overriding political sensibility in her films, it is an enlightened feminism that recognizes male vulnerability under a facade of braggadocio and forgives men their flaws.