Elliot (Alex Lawther, recognisable from playing the young Alan Turing in the Imitation Game) is our protagonist in Departure. A curious, creative and emotionally sensitive homosexual teenager, he’s on the cusp of adulthood.
The audience is introduced and drawn to the boy’s oddball activities at the arrival of his family’s holiday home in the idyllic south of France. We watch him whimsically stuttering through the forests, exploring his newly-found sexual desires in a couple of masturbation scenes (some might find this slightly graphic) and developing a friendship with an out-of-town Parisian boy, Clément.
After the initial focus of the film being on Elliot, we become aware of his mother Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) and the purpose of them visiting their family home for the final time – which is to sell it.
A dysfunctional relationship between Beatrice, her Husband Philip (Finbar Lynch) and Elliot has taken its toll on all parties. With Beatrice significantly more distressed as she clears the home and prepares the sale.
Flickering between Elliot and Clément’s friendship and Beatrice’s difficulty in letting go, it creates the space for some breath-taking and organic acting, something that rarely comes from big-budget productions.
It’s easy to tarnish Departure as a straightforward coming-of-age LGBT film, but what is conclusive towards the end of the film is that every character has discovered a form of self-enlightenment.
The problems of each character are transferrable to the audience. It is Andrew Steggall’s clear intention to provoke an internal debate in viewers, questioning how to we treat our own family. He evaluates the flaws of each character and how a middle-class family can be reduced to turmoil in spite of wealth. This is achieved by leaving no stone unturned, making it a joy to be fully immersed in a character analysis from actors who compliment each other perfectly.
Departure is a fascinating film. The tempo is slow to begin with but increases, and every inch of the film’s DNA is important and meaningful, provoking thought and reflection in the viewer. Steggall does a stellar job in blending the script with engaging acting – getting career best performances from Lawther and Stevenson. Combine this with delicate cinematography and it makes for an intriguing watch.