"Time to Leave": Intimate journey of a young man facing death

French director François Ozon is a master of character detail: His elegant thriller "Swimming Pool" introduced us to a writer (Charlotte Rampling) so wound up she even ate angrily; his sad, backward falling-out-of-love story "5x2" lingered on the face of a woman (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) quietly mourning the loss of something long gone.

Though Ozon's recent films (which also include "Under the Sand" and "8 Women") have mostly focused on women, his new drama, "Time to Leave," is the story of a young man. Shown at the Seattle International Film Festival, it's a quiet and poignant look at a life as it slips away, seen through the eyes of a character who's not always likable but remains entirely real.

Romain (Melvil Poupaud), a gay fashion photographer in Paris, is beautiful and doomed. As the film begins, he's told that he has terminal cancer. But he's not about to go gently to his final rest: He's angry, lashing out at his lover, his family and the curly-haired childhood self who haunts him. Over the film's brief 81 minutes, though, he finds something like peace, moving through the stages of acceptance.

Early on, he furiously rails against his sister, whom he claims to hate; later, we see him furtively taking a playground photograph of her with her children. A last cigarette with his grandmother (smoky-voiced Jeanne Moreau) connects him to his past; an encounter with a sad-eyed waitress (the chameleonlike Bruni-Tedeschi, an intelligent presence reminiscent of a French Emma Thompson) links him to the future.

By the film's final haunting beach scenes (shades of "Under the Sand"), we've completed the journey with him; it's time to leave, at sunset, as the story quietly fades away.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Movie review 3 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Time to Leave," with Melvil Poupaud, Jeanne Moreau, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Daniel Duval, Marie Rivire, Christian Sengewald. Written and directed by Franois Ozon. 81 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In French with English subtitles. Varsity, through Thursday.