Le temps qui reste, or, as some appalling translator has deemed it shall be in English, “Time to Leave” is the second part of François Ozon’s informal trilogy about mourning. Romain (Melvil Poupaud) is suddenly thrown prematurely into death as he discovers he has only three months left to him. A lesser director would then show us heart-warming scenes of families re-united, lost lovers sought and found and other generally accepted sweet as pie ways to deal with the situation.
Romain does not do this. He takes on the role of mourner and mourned, refusing to let anyone else share in this grief. Poupaud therefor carries the whole film on his shoulders, rarely leaving the frame, let alone the scene. His performance never lets up or disappoints, despite the strange situations and unfamiliar emotions he is required to portray.
By declaring that the film is about mourning Ozon raises a question, what exactly is being mourned? While of course it is the life of the protagonist it is also the future he will not be part of. The generation he will not be able to father. By making this character gay Ozon adds another layer to the story. The impossible future seems to taunt Romain as even his sister confidently declares that soon France may allow gay adoption. (Incidentally given that France is still in the aftermath of violent protests against gay marriage, Ozon’s frank and honest portrayal of a homosexual relationship is refreshing and also somewhat daring.) The narrative solution to this is a little contrived but allows for the main thrust of the film’s plot. From trying his hardest to leave no trace of himself, Romain has now decided to leave what small mark he can given his lack of time.
The themes of fatherhood, loss and homosexuality are so raw and vivid in this film that it can be rather uncomfortable to watch. There is none of Ozon’s cold detachment in the cinematography of this film. Every scene, every emotion is played out in your face, at terrifyingly close range. The dying photographer records his own life with the same emotion as Ozon’s direction. This makes it a challenging watch, with not so much as a shred of optimism. Still, it is definitely worthwhile, if only to allow a more open discussion of death and the way in which people approach it.