"35 rhums", also known as "35 Shots of Rum," is a 2008 French film directed by Claire Denis. It's a movie that expertly employs a restrained narrative approach to create a deeply intimate portrayal of family dynamics and generational change.
The film revolves around Lionel (Alex Descas), a widowed train driver, and his university student daughter Josephine (Mati Diop). Their quiet, mutual companionship is threatened when Josephine becomes romantically involved with a family friend. Simultaneously, a retired colleague's deteriorating health forces Lionel to contemplate his own aging and mortality.
Denis' direction is typically nuanced, understated, and contemplative. She imbues even the most mundane events - shared meals, riding the metro, doing laundry - with a poetic resonance. The film subtly captures the everyday rhythms of life, creating an atmosphere that is both deeply personal and universally relatable.
The performances, particularly from Alex Descas and Mati Diop, are stellar. They both convey a wealth of emotion with minimal dialogue, their chemistry embodying the deep bond between father and daughter. Their performances are central to the film's ability to communicate so much with so little.
Cinematographically, Agnès Godard's work is an integral part of the film's charm. Her camera tenderly observes the characters and their surroundings, creating a visual poetry that aligns beautifully with the film's emotional core.
The film's use of music is notable as well, particularly the way it utilises 'Nightshift' by The Commodores, which plays a significant role in a crucial scene and embodies the film's themes of change and transition.
"35 rhums" is not a film that relies on dramatic events or grand gestures. Its strength lies in its focus on ordinary life and the silent shifts that occur within it. Some may argue that the film's slow pace and lack of clear narrative structure make it a challenging watch. Still, for those attuned to its rhythm, it's an enchanting portrayal of life's quiet moments and the complexities of human relationships.
In conclusion, "35 rhums" is a tender, understated, and deeply moving film that examines life's transitions with warmth and a gentle gaze. It's a testament to Claire Denis' strength as a director that she can create something so powerful from such a subtle narrative.