Heading South

Rated 4.0

The precociously masterful French director Laurent Cantet (Human Resources and Time Out) braves an adaptation of Dany Laferrière’s short stories about sexual tourism in Haiti’s Papa Doc ’70s. Three white, affluent and middle-aged women (Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young and Louise Portal) hole up at a beach resort near Port-au-Prince to indulge the very mixed blessings of being Third World sugar mamas. They compete for the favors of a prized teen stud (Ménothy Cesar) and come to terms, or don’t, with their superficial insulation from the brutal world around them. Cantet’s script, co-written with Robin Campillo, articulates a nuanced critique on the shame and destructiveness of colonization; strong, well-directed performances keep it from degenerating into some stiffly academic treatise. Because Cantet isn’t a moralizer, but rather a filmmaker who refuses to insult his audience’s intelligence, he delivers an instructive example of how to make a politically serious film without pandering.