Director: Emmanuel CarrÃ¨re. France. 2021. 117 minutes
Marianne (Juliette Binoche), a successful writer, infiltrates as a contract housekeeper to research her next book, a talk on France’s jobs crisis and the minimum wage treadmill. Documentary-style cinematography offers the gritty naturalism required; the approach expected for films on economic inequalities. And certainly, this image ticks many boxes of social realism. But there’s a satisfying extra depth born from the compelling performances and emphasis on female friendship. He is particularly insightful when it comes to the ethics of real-life material use and the question of the legitimacy of emotional ties if one party is hiding essential truths about itself.
Particularly insightful about the ethics of using real life as material
Loosely adapted from Florence Aubenas bestseller, ‘Le Quai de Ouistreham’, (translated into English as ‘The Night Cleaner’), the film will draw comparisons with the endless controversies of Ken Loach. But a closer parallel could be the humanism and camaraderie in the face of despair explored in StÃ©phane BrizÃ©’s book. The measure of a manm After its premiere in the opening slot of the Directors’ Fortnight, the film should have a good festival. Binoche’s combination, source material profile and topical themes will likely attract audiences beyond the festival circuit: the film has already sold in several territories and will be released in France through Memento Distribution.
Binoche is unmistakably the star of the film, but there is a generosity in his performance that allows other lay performers to claim their part of the story. The most notable of these is HÃ©lÃ¨ne Lambert, who plays the fiery single mother ChristÃ¨le. From the moment she bursts into an unemployment office early in the film, eagerly spitting out the bureaucratic gropings that leave her with no money to feed her children, Lambert is spellbinding. Binoche is also present in the scene, but, like all of us, she is an observer, amazed by the burning intensity of ChristÃ¨le’s vitriol. It takes a while before ChristÃ¨le takes full center stage as a character, eventually becoming Marianne’s closest friend in the demoralizing chore of cleaning the cross-Channel ferries. But even on the outskirts of a scene, our eyes, as well as the agitated camera, are drawn to her and Lambert’s bubbling combination of anger and vulnerability.
None have quite the intensity of the bond that Marianne forms with ChristÃ¨le, but there are other friendships that have developed satisfactorily. CÃ©dric (Didier Pupin), an easy-going charmer, is rather in love with Marianne and offers her a key moment of introspection when he admits to engaging in a relationship under false pretenses. Suddenly, the ethical issues of a friendship based on lies take shape and Marianne’s face darkens. But for the most part, she assumes that because her feelings for ChristÃ¨le and the other women are genuine and because her motivations for writing the book are honorable, it shouldn’t matter that she wasn’t fully. honest with them. âI can’t say if all of this is good or bad,â says an unemployment officer, the only person who recognizes Marianne and questions her motives.
Rather, the film leaves Marianne off the hook in what is arguably a dubious ethical position. But it nonetheless raises an interesting question: How true can an attempt, however well-intentioned, be to shed light on the plight of those who live on the poverty line when the artist is isolated by privileges? And where exactly is the line between inspiration and exploitation?
Production companies: Curiosa Films, CinÃ©france Studios, France 3 CinÃ©ma
International sales: France TÃ©lÃ©visions Distribution [email protected]
Producers: Emmanuel CarrÃ¨re, Julien Deris, David GauquiÃ©
Screenplay: Emmanuel CarrÃ¨re, HÃ©lÃ¨ne Devynck
Photography: Patrick Blossier
Editor: Albertine Lastera
Graphic design: Julia Lemaire
Music: Mathieu Lamboley
Main actors: Juliette Binoche, HÃ©lÃ¨ne Lambert, Didier Pupin, Emily Madeleine, Evelyne PorÃ©e, LÃ©a Carne