Heading South

Trouble in Paradise

"Older women are best, because they always think they may be doing it for the last time." Ian Fleming

Women in love . . . or lust . . . or longing. Heading South, set in Haiti in the '70's, is paradise for needy but wealthy middle-aged women. Young black men are willing to share their love for either dollars or gifts, while the women get something they can't buy elsewhere: respect and orgasms. It all seems much purer than men seeking young girls in Thailand, yet there is usually trouble in paradise.

Three intertwining stories are told into camera of Ellen (Charlotte Rampling), who regularly comes here and has become attached to young Legba (Menothy Cesar); Brenda (Karen Young), who came once before with her husband and now threatens to steal Legba from Ellen; and Sue, an overweight, brassy Canadian. Nothing much happens but some petty jealousies over Legba, until director Cantet goes outside the circle of this modest resort where Papa Doc's dictatorship touches quietly on their lives. In fact, the most powerful part of the film occurs in the opening scene, where a black mother tries to give away her daughter to a prosperous black man in order to avoid the child's being taken from her, as often happens to poor blacks in Haiti.

Although a couple of the black men are filmed naked, and Brenda's breasts are revealed after a shower, there is little sex to spice up the film, regardless of the sexy premise. If Heading South had done more with the political and social unrest on the island, as a metaphor for the women's unrest at the resort, there would have been a much more substantial film. We are left with a not very interesting plot bolstered by very interesting and beautiful actresses, Rampling and Young.