Elliot (Alex Lawther) and his mother Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) return to the family’s holiday home in the South of France. The house has been sold, and the two are there to pack away their things. While back in France, Elliot begins to experiment with his sexuality, when he befriends a boy named Clément (Phénix Brossard), but when his father Philip (Finbar Lynch) arrives at the house, the curious calm is shattered, with truths long ignored coming to light.
Departure is a film that feels a little like a summer day; long and bright, with lazy curiosity and the promise of something more to come. The film mainly focuses on the ponderings and experiments of the teenage Elliot as he explores his sexuality, but with his parents’ rocky marriage in the background, Departure soon becomes a look into a marriage as it falls apart.
Alex Lawther really is in the lead here, and his performance as Elliot is warm and engaging. Of course, the character is not perfect – he is a teenage boy after all – but his lashings out at the world around him can be understood in terms of the secret he is keeping. Lawther makes Elliot feel rounded, as though we are taking a look into the life of a real person. Juliet Stevenson makes Beatrice fragile, as though she is about to break and Phénix Broussard is charming and sometimes brash as Clément
The story of the film is rather simple; instead of a fast moving film, the audience is invited on a journey with the characters as they pack up another house, and spark up a friendship that could lead to something more. Elliot’s explorations are well handled, and feel like the curios first steps of a teenager into his sexuality. There are some expository monologues in the film, but these are also well handled, with them feeling like organic stories from the character, rather than a stand-and-deliver catch up for the audience.
Director Andrew Steggall – who also wrote the film – keeps the energy of Departure light on the surface, but makes sure that the darker undertones of the film are always present, and the audience is aware of them. The chemistry and relationships between the characters are strong and believable, and the performances enthralling and relatable.
In all, Departure is a film about a family and a friendship trying to get closer together, but ultimately falling apart, as a young man explores his sexuality for the first time, and tries to find the line between friends and romance.