Measure of a Man, The (2015)

Review #1,258






THE SCOOP
Director:  Stephane Brize
Cast:  Vincent Lindon, Karine de Mirbeck, Matthieu Schaller
Plot:  An unemployed factory worker is trying to make ends in working-class France.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Best Actor and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury (Cannes).
Runtime:  93min
Rating:  PG
International Sales:  MK2

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: MILD)
I first saw Vincent Lindon in Claire Denis' Bastards (2013), and was suitably impressed.  In The Measure of a Man, which he won Best Actor at Cannes, Lindon gives a minimalist performance far from the brooding one he so adeptly displayed in Denis' noir-mystery. 

Here, he plays Thierry, a working-class father struggling to find a job to support his family.  The film opens with him trying to understand why he was not qualified for a particular job when he had completed a skills productivity course.  

Made up of a series of detailed daily situations that would be considered mundane to be put up on the screen, The Measure of a Man intentional strives for that microscopic effect as we follow Thierry in his quest to land a job. 

There’s some comedy to be found from Lindon’s poker-face performance, especially when things turn against him in social situations.  His reaction (or lack thereof) is admirable considering the pressure he is shouldering.  

Never once do we see Thierry rage in anger; he may seem unassuming, but he never backs down from any negotiation that would see him in the losing end.  A case-in-point is a sequence midway through the film that sees him appealing for reason with a potential buyer for his house to raise funds for his syndrome-afflicted son.

The film does meander without any purpose for nearly an hour, and one would be hard-pressed to find a convincing reason to recommend it, until we are pulled forcefully into its narrative in the final act, which derives its power from a depressing turn of events. 

Directed and co-written by Stephane Brize, The Measure of a Man is his breakthrough into the big league after five features.  While the film’s mundaneness may be challenging for the restless viewer, it somehow tackles themes of capitalism, consumerism and surveillance quite uniquely through the world of work and labour. 

Perhaps the end goal of Brize’s work is to make us ponder: is there more to working our socks off, being honest with ourselves, and coming home to tend to our loved ones?  If you put yourself in Thierry’s shoes, that’s all there is to life.  It doesn’t get any more complex. 

Verdict:  As mundane as it is, the film finds reason for its existence with a powerful final act and a minimalist performance by Vincent Lindon.

GRADE: B 






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