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DVD Review – Let My People Go!

3 min read

Quite possibly the only Gay-Jewish-French-Finnish film out there, Let My People Go! Mikael Buch’s debut feature is certainly one of a kind. With a comedic narrative fixed on the road to the upcoming Passover, the film’s protagonist Reuben (Nicolas Maury) has a painful and bumpy ride.

LetMyPeopleGoCoverReuben, an overtly camp and melodramatic Frenchman living in Finland with his lover Teemu (Jarkko Niemi) could be considered whiny and childlike and lacking in character depth. However this view could only be made by those who are unable to pick up on the satire inherently evident throughout the film. Reuben is a modern, gay parody of the old melodramatic actress stereotype – think Joan Fontaine, making it one of the film’s primary sources of comedy. Especially when combined with Reuben’s unconventional Jewish family.

Following a lover’s tiff between Reuben and Teemu the former returns to visit his family in France for the Passover celebration, from there on out there is nothing but ceaseless humours drama.  Despite the attempts of Reuben’s mother (Carmen Maura) to raise a conventional, faithful Jewish family, all is not as it seems behind closed doors. Reuben’s sexuality is openly excepted and widely acknowledged (his persona is one that cannot simply be overlooked) however his  sister, Irene (Amira Casar) is stuck in a bad relationship – also common familial knowledge, however is fretting that she will end up becoming the family’s first divorcee. Reuben’s father (Jean François Stévenin) confesses to having loved two women for the past twenty years before introducing Reuben to his mistress.

On top of having his family offload on him, Reuben accidentally picks up a local Jewish lawyer, Mr Goldberg (Jean-Luc Bideau) at an ironically named ‘Coming out of Egypt’ party. The older man claims to have fallen deeply in love with the protagonist and begins a slew of uncomfortable situations and insistences that Reuben continually attempts to evade. Everything reaches its merciful solution though, following a night in jail.

The cinematography and colour scheming of Let My People Go! is beautiful, done in a style unique to French cinema, with beautiful shots and colours varying  from picturesque Finland to Reuben’s 60s styled bedroom in France. The stylization of the characters is also extremely aesthetically pleasing; in particular the styling of Reuben, allowing him to be a shot’s focal point without any leading camera angles or necessary dialogue.

The soundtrack is also complimentary to the light-hearted kitsch flair of the film, with a mix of The Barry Sisters, Eric Neveux and Noah and the Whale.

The acting standard exhibited by the entire cast is high, with Maury leading the way through his portrayal of Reuben through amusingly effeminate body language, developing the character and adding to the idea of him being a parody of the melodramatic actresses of old.

The only two points of the film left unexplored were the relationships between Nathan (Reuben’s father) and his mistress and between Mr Goldberg and Reuben – what happened to them? Did Nathan continue loving two women? Did Mr Goldberg just return Reuben?

Over than these two minor lose ends – and the fact that Teemu just up and walks out of the school in which he works to fly to France without a responsibility in the world – the film was a continual journey of union and acceptance, not  just of homosexuality, but of partners and customs within the Jewish community.

A definite watch for those of you drawn to the beauty of French cinema and who are looking for a light hearted, humorous portrayal of gay men.

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