Heading South - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Heading South Reviews

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½ January 27, 2016
Provocative enough, but rather too tedious.
½ June 25, 2013
Good movie... love Charlotte Rampling - don't know how this slipped my radar.
March 7, 2013
Good movie on a topic that is not really explored very often. My gripe was the fact this movie was set in the 1970s and the props and clothing were obviously much newer. I know it's an independent movie, but damn some effort would have been nice.
June 10, 2012
Not on my top lists to see, but it could be interesting and entertaining to watch.
½ April 11, 2012
Despite my principles of always finishing films, I only could take 25 minutes of this. Wrong. Just wrong. In so many ways. Deeply disturbing, in fact. And sad.
½ January 29, 2012
The film takes place in Haiti in the late 70's and is about three older single women visiting a beach resort to take advantage of the sun, sea, sand, and young Haitian men. I loved this film. It feels very French in its tasteful restraint. Actual sex is never shown, yet it is every bit as titilating as if it were. This movie asks questions you didn't want to think about and turns perceptions around. The sad revelations at the end of the film say a lot about human nature will keep the film in your mind.
January 26, 2012
"I'm crazy about love - sex and love, I'm not really sure anymore," declares Ellen (Charlotte Rampling), the haughty, brutally forthright queen bee in the gaggle of sex tourists frolicking through Laurent Cantet's devastating film "Heading South."
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"I always told myself that when I'm old I'd pay young men to love me," she continues in her best blasé manner. "I just didn't think it would happen so fast." A beautiful, unmarried 55-year-old teacher of French literature at Wellesley, Ellen has spent the last six summers vacationing at the Petite Anse, a seaside Haitian hotel frequented by poor black boys eager to provide sex to middle-age female guests who lavish them with money and gifts. Ellen, the resident philosopher among a group who picnic with their boyfriends on the beach, is a bossy know-it-all who is not quite as hard-boiled as she would like to imagine.

As "Heading South" narrows its focus to concentrate on Ellen; her favorite young lover, the handsome, sly 18-year-old Legba (Ménothy Cesar); and two of the women in her circle, it becomes one of the most truthful examinations ever filmed of desire, age and youth, and how easy it is to confuse erotic rapture with love.

"If you're over 40 and not as dumb as a fashion model, the only guys who are interested are natural born losers or husbands whose wives are cheating on them," Ellen tartly observes of the mating game as it applies to single women of a certain age.

But "Heading South" is much more than a dispassionate examination of middle-age desire. Adapted from three short stories by Dany Laferrière and set in the late 1970's, when Haiti was ruled by Jean-Claude Duvalier (nicknamed Baby Doc) and a cadre of thugs, this politically pointed film contemplates the darker social undercurrents beneath a seemingly benign example of sexual tourism.

In a dirt-poor country where life is cheap, there is a local saying that those who grow too tall in Haiti are cut down; the exceptions, of course, are tourists.

Observing the tourism with profound distaste is the hotel's courtly, discreet headwaiter, Albert (Lys Ambroise). In a film constructed around four shattering monologues addressed to the camera, Albert's is the only Haitian voice to speak from the heart and what he says is chilling. Descended from a family of patriots who fought the Americans in the 1915 occupation, he harbors an implacable loathing of the white visitors. His grandfather, he says, believed "the white man was an animal." Albert adds, "If he knew I was a waiter for Americans, he would die of shame." Today, he declares, whites wield an even more dangerous weapon than cannons - their dollars: "Everything they touch turns to garbage."

How perilous life is for ordinary Haitians under Mr. Duvalier is suggested in the movie's opening scene, in which Albert, waiting to pick up a tourist at the airport, is approached by a Haitian woman who points to her beautiful 15-year-old daughter and pleads with him to take her because "being beautiful and poor in this country, she doesn't stand a chance; they won't think twice of killing me to grab her."

The other three characters who bare their souls are Ellen and two fellow sex tourists, Brenda (Karen Young) and Sue (Louise Portal). Brenda, 48, is a high-strung, Valium-popping woman from Savannah, Ga.; she is returning to the resort three years after she visited with her now-ex-husband and had sex with the 15-year-old Legba, who gave her her first orgasm. She has been obsessed with him ever since. Sue, a levelheaded, good-hearted French Canadian who runs a warehouse in Montreal, has a Haitian boyfriend she adores, but she knows full well that in any other place the relationship would be laughable.

With a screenplay in French, English and a smattering of Creole by Mr. Cantet and Robin Campillo, "Heading South" is a beautifully written, seamlessly directed film with award-worthy performances by Ms. Rampling and Ms. Young. As Ellen and Brenda compete for Legba's love, both imagine that they play a larger role in his life than they actually do. The little we see of Legba away from the resort suggests a complicated past. When a gunman goes after him, the women imagine they are the immediate cause of his troubles. They are, but only to the extent that Legba conspicuously stands out in the flashy clothes Brenda buys him. As much as Ellen and Brenda think they understand him and the state of fear that grips Haiti, they are ultimately clueless.

At first glance, "Heading South" seems to be a departure for the director of "Human Resources" and "Time Out," two of the more critically acclaimed French films in recent years. But it continues Mr. Cantet's incisive examination of money and class in modern society. In "Human Resources," a French blue-collar family is torn apart when the son of an assembly-line worker joins the same company's white-collar management team, and father and son find themselves on opposite sides of a picket line.

The desperate protagonist of "Time Out" loses the high-paying job on which his self-esteem depends and convinces his family he has landed even better work, while drifting around in his car and living on money borrowed from friends that he pretends to invest. In "Heading South," money also rules. The romantic spell that Legba exerts over Ellen and Brenda is bought and paid for.

Mr. Cantet's film is too sophisticated to demonize these women, whose relationships with their young lovers are more tender and nourishing than overtly crass. For all its political acuity, this great film recognizes and respects the complexity of its memorable, fully realized characters.
November 18, 2011
Liked the idea of middle aged ladies, visiting 1970s Haiti for the fruits of younger men, but didn't really take off for me.
½ September 18, 2011
even the high calaber actresses like rampling can't save this one from being nothing more than "exotic" soft core porn, very disappointed with this one.
½ August 13, 2011
Heading South is a film of sometimes subtle, sometimes blunt metaphors for the interaction of rich and pauperized countries. The film also offers something unusual: a tragic spectacle of normal, recognizable and utterly sympathetic women condemning themselves.
June 5, 2011
Boasts an intriguing premise, but even Rampling can't make her character arc seem uncontrived.
January 11, 2011
A distinctly uncomfortable watch dealing with complex questions about sexual exploitation, Set in the late 70s, Heading South follows the stories of a group of white, female sex tourists and their Haitian gigolos. The relationships, manipulations, loves and fears of all are examined as a long beach holiday gradually begins to turn first sour, then tragic.
The women live hollow, shallow lives and their male companions desperate and wasted ones.
This movie doesn't shy away from the role of Western capitalism in the misfortunes of the Third World but never rams it down you throat, it is more subtle than that. It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth of the viewer, allowing characters to develop in surprising ways.
The three main female roles are excellently played by Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young and Louise Portal, each character being given a brief and telling monologue as to their motivations. Heading the male cast is Menothy Cesar as Legba, the handsome object of the woman's attention. He is brilliant in this role and manages to imbue him with a quiet nobility and doom laden tragedy. Also worthy of note is Lys Ambroise as Albert, the patron of the hotel where most of the film is set.
This brilliantly directed study of a difficult subject manages to inform and challenge our views without being lurid and sensationalist but neither does it give the viewer and easy time. I'll be watching this many times.
½ January 9, 2011
Missing: Original Title "Vers le Sud"
July 25, 2010
Laurel Cantent's "Heading South" received a lot of international praise at film festivals for its direct and bold way of depicting sex tourism in the 70's. The story is about middle aged women who spend their vacations in Haiti, where the local gigolos offer a distraction from everyday worries.

Cantet doesn't breach nor romanticize, and the prostitution aspect of the phenomenon is actually left with very little attention. It's mostly about the women themselfs, theis doubts, their roles and restrictions and about the dread of growing old.

Nuanced and low-key, this movie didn't really reach me well enough. Maybe it's one of those stories one has to return to when older, but at this point I found a lot of the content trivial and not ambitious enough. Somehow the characters didn't grow to a point where their inner lives would have felt worth my attention and instead were kept at the level of general representatives for middle-aged femininity.
½ May 7, 2010
Her får man noe å tenke på. Plottet er tynt, men det er greit fordi poenget med filmen er personskildringene og samhandlingen mellom menneskene.
April 24, 2010
I like overseas movies,
½ April 14, 2010
Laurent Cantet has to be one of the most promising movie directors around given that he has been responsible for The Class, Human Resources and Time Out - all with a claim to be in any Top 10 of the past decade. This film starts from an intriguing premise - expeditions paid by middle aged female tourists in order to gain the companionship of young Haitians.

Haiti makes for a novel backdrop to a film, albeit one tinged with sadness by subsequent events, but the film never really catches fire. A bolted on ending involving strife with local gangsters detracts from the psychological interplay between the locals and the women. Charlotte Rampling plays a character with a nice line in passive aggression and the loneliness suffered by the women is overwhelming at times, but it's as if Cantet didn't quite know how to reseolve matters, thus going for a more mainstream plot device to do so.
March 4, 2010
Frustrating piece, tuching on a number of interesting topics, situations and relations.
½ January 2, 2010
It's official: Laurent Cantet is solidly one of my very favorite directors. A fascinating portrait of naivete, race, class, imperialism, the violence of tourism, politics and political violence, romance and romanticization of the worst kind, sexuality, age, feminism, loss, power; my goodness the layers of this movie are endless and yet it remains so succinct and seemingly simple and direct. The film centers around three well-off older white women at a resort in Haiti looking for excitement, in this case sexual excitement, "love" and a complex (and ultimately twisted and doomed) desire across races, places, and class. Their much younger Haitian play-things become the objects of jealousy, and the politics and history of Haiti quickly impinge on their idealism and romanticism of this idyllic beach resort, along with the increasing political violence and chaos spreading in Haiti that eventually disrupts their beach and their romance. Narrated directly with excerpts form the perspective of each of the women, and a much older Haitian waiter at the hotel, the young and ultimately voiceless and powerless Legba who is the object (victim?) is left as a larger allegorical character. We do not hear directly from him, his thoughts are emotions we are left to guess at and project onto him his desires, much as the women in the film spend their time projecting all kinds of emotions onto him, as if he were purely their canvas. This film reminds me very much of the exceptional documentary Cannibal Tours (impossible to find), in the way it views an ultimately unredeemable situation of cultural and sexualized consumption of another people. You can immediately understand, but ultimately have a difficult time respecting these women, their perspectives being at once so understandable but still so racist and ultimately blind and gluttonous. An absolutely fascinating, but slightly disturbing film that does not resolve cleanly. In this way it remains very real, these womens' eyes are not suddenly opened, their lives are not suddenly changed. Haiti continues on as before, their presence both relentless and still almost irrelevant. The particular story is almost insignificant, and they continue on as before. Something ended here, but everything goes on whether they're present or not. And the desire of cultural appropriation and possession continues as before, one woman deciding to tour all the rest of the Caribbean and all its beauty, still searching and still consuming, she of course being free and allowed to leave a place and its violence behind. As the police tell the older waiter as they dismiss the women's concerns after the killings "nobody ever murders a tourist." The portraiture here is relentless, and not beautiful.
½ November 23, 2009
The sex trade on Haiti appears to involve one teenage boy. I like him and some minor characters, but much of the behavior is petty and childish and self-absorbed with little convincing explanation. I gather that the middle aged women are escaping and bitter and therefore exploitative and apparently without redeeming qualities. I would dislike them in real life and found little emotional insight as they squabbled over the men they paid. Still, the movie's engaging to watch. The cast is good. It all ends on that grating note of ambivalence and abandon that's supposed to be existential but seems hammy and out of character... You know, a neutral but now lurchingly villainous character speeds away on a boat in the last shot looking smug at the camera daring the audience to think badly of them... Cliche endings in French cinema are no better than cliche endings in Hollywood. Look, I can feel for these women a little. They're too old for The Real World, and here they've neither a documentary nor a reality tv show, either of which could have exposed both sides of the sex trade better. The movie's watchable and even subtly acted and might make a meaningful impression on you. As for me... Scheming? Fine. Power hungry? Check. Petty? All right. But pettily scheming in tiresome ways without self-awareness or humor? My feeling is that even evil characters can be considerably more human. I blame the script.
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