Lionel (Alex Descas) is a conductor on Paris’ subway system, a man living simply with his student daughter Joséphine. They live in a small apartment building, along with a taxi driver named Gabrielle and a young businessman, always traveling, named Noé, and together the four have evolved a weird sort of family life- one defined by absence, distance, and uncertainty just as it is by blood, love, and obligation.
Director/co-writer Claire Denis (Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day) is one of the most gifted filmmakers currently working, and with this film, she refines her organic and sensual method of storytelling into something truly comforting and lovely. Critics all over the world have been rapturous in their response, though with the indifference that many audiences have been showing toward challenging foreign cinema, it remains to be seen if that will be enough to bring viewers in.
If nothing else, 35 Shots of Rum will be responsible for countless drunken slow dances to The Commodores’ “Nightshift” over the next few years and several quality rice-based dinners.
Denis has made something magical here: a family drama where nothing feels clichéd, conflict isn’t forced where it isn’t needed, and we spend time with people we’d genuinely like to get to know. Hearts are stoked and broken, lives get irrevocably changed without a moment’s notice, and when the film finally ends, you just want to spend more time in its world. There’s a pervasive loneliness milling around these characters in the periphery, which is why their choice not to be alone is thrilling on a purely emotional level.
Magical and intoxicating.