I usually spend Summer much the same every year. Three months of doing absolutely nothing but writing, watching films and drinking. That hasn’t changed this year, but instead of leaving the house to do these activities, I can do them all in the comfort of my own home. Perhaps I’m missing out on something more fulfilling that I can achieve over these sunny months, but The Green Ray has convinced me otherwise. With Éric Rohmer’s beloved French classic, we follow Delphine (Marie Rivière), a woman who finds herself with nothing to do over her summer break as anxiety and the isolation begins to take hold.
It’s a thrilling little story, encapsulated in the wondrous beauty of France as we follow the rather inconsequential life of Delphine. In need of a holiday, but not knowing where to go. Wanting to surround herself with friends and those closest to her, but at the same time clawing at some time alone without prying eyes and impromptu gestures. The Green Ray nails that feeling of relief, twisted with anxiety. It builds much of its narrative upon that premise, and as Rohmer gears us up through a great number of conversive scenes, it’s startling to see how well it all comes together.
The Green Ray is a technical marvel, with its barebones utilisation of camerawork adding a sincere and homely degree to the film. Rohmer’s camerawork and that of cinematographer Sophie Maintigneux capture a natural essence to the film by stripping back the technical merits to be as unintrusive as possible. The charms of the cast overflow, and with this laid-back approach from Rohmer, it’s clear to see that not meddling with the pacing of the film by interjecting cuts and frequent movements has paid off. It feels sincere, rather than artificial, and thanks to a superb array of excellent performances, the film is a delight to watch unfold.
Maybe I just watched this at a time where it would resonate with me most, but The Green Ray is a charming little film that doesn’t linger on its message for all that long. A sharp, well written piece that is directed with an achingly great detail to its surroundings. Encapsulating isolation when surrounded by loved ones and good times, it’s a refreshing discourse on not just the effects of loneliness, but an unabashed musing on how flimsy the perfect summer concept can be. Rohmer delivers a timeless piece built on the prominence of its performances, rather than its technical merits.