A couple of evenings ago, my cousin Debika and I were discussing how we’d react if we were told we had just a few months to live. She said she would try and do everything she liked in that time, and surround herself with her family. I said that I’d be inclined to save people I cared for the pain of watching me die—whatever that took. Ironically and unexpectedly, shortly after this conversation, we found ourselves watching François Ozon’s remarkable film Time to Leave.
The film begins with its protagonist, Romain, discovering that he is terminally ill with cancer, and deciding not to bother with treatment. He does not tell his friends or family of his condition. He is rude to his sister, and drives her to tears. He tells his lover, Sasha, that he does not love him, and drives him to move out of their house. This is a transparent lie, but though we see it, Sasha doesn’t. He confides to his grandmother—marvellously played by Jeanne Moreau—because she is like him, and “will die soon.” But even in this winding up, complications ensue.
Melvil Poupaud plays Romain, and is magnificent – understated, yet effortlessly expressive. But it is Ozon’s storytelling that makes this film memorable. It is spare, focussing only on the essential, and revealing its essence. There is not a frame out of place in this heartbreaking film that ends, like Romain, too soon and in great beauty.