Claire Denis has an almost-unparalleled gift for blending poeticism and realism, a combination once again seamlessly achieved in 35 Shots of Rum, her magnificently understated and piercing portrait of the difficulty of letting go. With a tip of the hat to Yasujiro Ozu via the recurring sight of trains (specifically, the dawn, midday and dusk views out their lead cars’ front windows), Denis subtly addresses the inexorable forward march of time – as well as the desire to halt that progress and remain in immediate moments of bliss – through the story of metro conductor Lionel (Alex Descas), his grown daughter Josephine (Mati Diop), their neighbor and Josephine’s potential romantic interest Noé (Grégoire Colin), and Lionel’s sometimes girlfriend, taxi driver Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue). Lionel and Gabrielle have professions defined by movement, and the story’s focus is on their (and Josephine and Noé’s) attempts to cling to a current situation that’s slipping through their fingers or pine for one already lost, whether it be Lionel’s desire to have Josephine remain at home, Noé’s inability to move out of (and sell all the furniture within) his parents’ apartment, or Gabrielle’s longing for earlier days when Josephine was young and she and Lionel were closer. Such issues, also felt in the difficult transition into retirement experienced by Lionel’s colleague René (Julieth Mars Toussaint), permeate 35 Shots, which expresses its individual, familial and romantic relationships and tensions with an affecting blend of lived-in authenticity and graceful lyricism. Once again working with moody Brit band Tindersticks and cinematographer par excellence Agnes Godard, whose work here is both silky and warm, Denis depicts everyday details (buying a rice cooker, going to work) and conveys overarching emotional upheavals with a compassion and gentleness that’s quietly devastating. More straightforward than The Intruder, her keenly observed latest pinpoints the pain and joy felt by parents and children as they learn to move on, never more so than in a sumptuous late-night café sequence that casts drinking and dancing as mechanisms for her characters’ process of gauging, changing and defining viewpoints.