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CANNES 2015 Review: The Measure of a Man

Director Stéphane Brizé reunites with Vincent Lindon for The Measure of a Man, with Lindon giving arguably his best screen performance to date. With comparisons to the Dardenne’s Two Days One Night, the film focuses on the French employment crisis, and how one man’s dignity is put to the test as he searches for a job.

Lindon stars as Thierry, an unemployed man struggling to keep his family out of debt. The film features two specific acts, the first showing Thierry’s quest for employment and financial instability. It is the second act where the film really makes its undeniable impact. Thierry eventually finds a job working on the security team at a Wal-Mart-like superstore. Each day, Thierry is tasked with watching customers and employees, making sure no one steals or breaks the rules. Eventually Thierry finds himself interrogating these rule-breakers, each who is thrust into similar situations as Thierry before he found employment.

The social-realist drama is expertly handled at all times by its director and lead actor. Brizé’s screenplay often features scenes of sparse dialogue, allowing viewers to carefully observe Lindon’s nuanced performance. The camera keeps its distance, allowing spectators to view Thierry’s life as if they are among those constantly scrutinizing him. It is the interrogation scenes, which feature a different style of camerawork, that show Brizé’s keen sense of direction. In these scenes, Brizé keeps the camera next to Lindon, hiding most of his face. Thus, the viewer is placed into these sequences, forced to judge and analyze what they would do in Thierry’s position.

The slow pace of the film may turn some viewers away, but those who allow themselves to become sutured into the Thierry’s life will find themselves fully invested, in what is a particularly rewarding theatrical experience.

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Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.