35 Shots of Rum: Claire Denis Intimate, Poetic Tale of Family Ties

Displaying poetic realism, 35 Shots of Rum is another enchanting film from the French director Claire Denis (“Beau Travail”), one of the most underestimated filmmakers in the U.S.  (And one of the few directors in the world who has never made a weak or even mediocre feature).
Set among a small circle of friends and neighbors in a Parisian suburb, the tale centers on Lionel (Alex Descas), a metro conductor, who lives with his beautiful university student daughter Josephine (Mati Diop) in a bustling apartment complex.  They have shared the same space for many years and have grown accustomed to one another’s company.
Lately, though, Josephine has been spending time with Noé (Gregoire Colin), a handsome young neighbor, while Lionel is finding himself drawn into a romance with his close friend Gabrielle.
As their lives are pulled in different directions, father and daughter realize they must confront an aspect of their past in order to embrace what lies ahead.
Lionel and his girlfriend Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) work in professions that are based on movement (she is a taxi driver), and the whole movie exhibits a smooth, circling, inevitable movement.
Sumptuously filmed by ace lenser Agnes Godard, this delicate, understated film deals with the issue of the difficulties involved in letting go of family ties, even when they are dictated by the natural progress of time. Ambivalence is the name of the game: Lionel wishes Josephine would stay home longer, and for her part, though needing to move on, Josephine knows that she will never again experience the kind of intimacy that she had with her father as a child.
Like the liquor in the title, “35 Shots of Rum” is a quiet, warm, graceful film that casts its spell as it unfolds, leaving lingering images well after it’s over.  It will serve as a great companion piece to Maurice Pialat’s masterpiece, A Nos Amours, which also depicts a uniquely intimate relationship between father and daughter.