Under the Sand may be the most astoundingly beautiful film all year, not to mention one of the most heartbreaking portraits of grief on the screen since The Sweet Hereafter. It's sober, solemn, and somehow liberating--I feel more human now that it's over, and seeing it has become a pleasurable thing to look back on.
The film, about a woman in her fifties (Charlotte Rampling) whose husband disappears on the beach and is never seen again, is a fascinating examination of loss and a profoundly moving film about love. It is fiercely unsentimental, almost bitterly angry at times, in the way that we curse those we love who have left us without warning. The brilliant final shots, which do absolutely nothing to explain what really happened to the husband, or what will happen to the wife, make exactly the right ending.
Rampling is the most perfect thing about the film--never before has her total prescence been so apparent on the screen, and the effect is astonishing. Time has only worked to ripen her unusual, angular radiance; she's luminous and sensual in every act we watch her perform. The film's images, each so clean and smooth, unable to contain their own natural brilliance, are sheer poetry: fingers, clutching sand; the way that light and water can distort the human figure; the buttering of a piece of toast; finally, the canvas of the human body and the beauty of its conjunction with another in an act of love.
Under the Sand is a reminder of what love and loss really are--you can see them in nearly every shot of Charlotte Rampling's unforgettable, candid face.