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The Independent Culture

The French writer-director Laurent Cantet's latest, like his previous films Human Resources and Time Out, is fascinated by the way society commodifies human beings. Set in Haiti during the late 1970s, it focuses upon the business of sex tourism but gender-flips the usual transaction: here middle-aged American women come to batten on the slim-hipped native gigolos hanging around a luxury beach resort.

Ellen (Charlotte Rampling) is the queen bee who graciously presides over this little colony, Brenda (Karen Young) is the needy divorcee who mistakes sex for love, and Legba (Menothy Cesar) is the handsome young charmer both women fall for. Cantet, hinting at the repressive political backdrop of the Duvalier era, suggests that the women's proprietorial bickering is an irrelevance to Legba, and by extension to the poor of Haiti, yet the film doesn't sufficiently illuminate the latter's character or circumstances to make us care.

The women's to-camera monologues are leaden, and reinforce the idea that this Caribbean sex idyll is merely a refuge of menopausal loneliness, something we could have guessed for ourselves. Rampling offers another classic in her gallery of glacial control-freaks, and you might be cheered by stinging asides on the blight of American imperialism. As a drama, however, it doesn't really click, and feels ill-considered after the mesmerising everyday horror story of Time Out.

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