A review of “Heading South” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: Unrated but should be R for sexual content and adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

 

 

Poised and timeless Charlotte Rampling twists female sexuality into intricate knots in this fascinating study of aging with grace.

Rampling – in keeping with her thirst for the unconventional standard – heats up the screen as middle-aged femme fatale Ellen, a Boston schoolmarm with a taste for young Haitian men that is regularly satiated at a swanky island resort.

The Queen Bee has her boy-toy (Menothy Cesar as Legba) firmly under her thumb (among other places) until the arrival of angst-ridden Brenda (Karen Young), who had a brief fling with Legba years back and is back for more.

Heady with the solicitous attention of two beautiful women who come bearing gifts (in the form of cash, clothing and hot sex) Legba gets ahead of himself, roguishly playing off the sparring females while coping with the sticky wickets of his own lowly social status.

Director Laurent Cantet dabbles in the waters of change with great subtlety, gently exposing an underbelly of racism and poverty while encouraging his female leads to explore their very real fears of aging and losing grip of their ability to attract the desire of a younger man.

But Legba’s backstory is a bit of a misstep – a sociological study that smacks of political pretense – as is the ultimate loss of focus on recklessly wanton women and their raw and base needs. 

 

Rampling is a lean and mean machine, oozing chic from every pore and nailing the desperation she longs to quell. Her devil-may-care attitude is a tribute to the power of superficial emotion masking bottomless hurt. Young is equally anxious, a fading wallflower determined to see her fantasies through to the end with an idealistic playground as her stage.