Let My People Go!
Directed by Mikael Buch
Released January 11, 2013
It’s not every day you see a comedy about a French gay Jew living in Finland. The feature film debut from French filmmaker Mikael Buch is a screwball comedy with an energetic and talented ensemble cast, which often, somewhat appropriately, gets carried away with its own ridiculousness but ultimately serves as a nutty, fresh look at one man trapped in a bubble in which he didn’t doesn’t belong. Set during the Jewish holiday of Passover, it’s the perfect parable of one man looking to break free from his own chains and be able to enjoy life as the person he truly is.
Nicolas Maury stars as Ruben, who works as a postman and lives with his Finnish boyfriend Teemu. A deadly encounter on a delivery results in a tumultuous blow-up between the couple, sending Ruben back to France to stay with his family. What ensues is a wild series of events that puts Ruben in uncomfortable positions and reframes his sense of self. Pressure from his mother, confessions of an affair from his father, marriage problems from his sister, and a few too many run-ins with an overzealous childhood teacher who is also gay complicate Ruben’s life to the point of incomprehensibility.
Maury has the perfect demeanor in playing Ruben, painting him as eager for attention but afraid of the spotlight, never quite comfortable in his own skin. Spanish actress Carmen Maura, a frequent muse of Pedro Almodovar’s, is the standout member of the ensemble, playing his Jewish mother with just the right amount of obsessive and protective attention. The rest of the cast works well together to create an over-the-top, outrageous, generally endearing extended family unit whose interactions make for marvelous entertainment.
“Let My People Go!” is many things at once, and its humor is not limited strictly to Jewish or gay jokes. In their original script, screenwriters Buch and Christopher Honoré devote time to Teemu’s Finnish mother as well as Ruben’s Jewish mother, able to torment her son in her own unique way, ensuring equal opportunity for all peoples with a specific focus on Judaism and Passover. The film’s connection with Judaism is, like Ruben’s, situational and occasional, but its allusions and references are certainly entertaining. The film also manages to find a romantic direction towards its end, finishing on an utterly bizarre but hopeful and positive note. There isn’t another film quite like “Let My People Go!” Its antics are strange but its pleasant, creative nature is ultimately winning.