A multi-dimensional exploration of the human condition
By Ross Larkin
Few nations are as adept at storytelling as the French, who consistently unearth the interesting in the everyday and find meaning in the unexpected.
Night Shift (also known as Police) is one such example. At first glance, perhaps an unusual crime drama. On further inspection, however, a multi-dimensional exploration of the human condition, with virtually no reliance on the likes of gunfights, murder or explosions, often synonymous with such a genre.
Three police officers are saddled with transporting an illegal Tajikistani immigrant to the airport for deportation. En route, however, they learn of the man’s past and the conditions he was initially fleeing, and find themselves conflicted as to whether sending him back is morally acceptable.
As one might expect from French arthouse tropes, the foundation is thoroughly established with much character development and emotional examination well before the arc of the story takes shape.
Knowing our three officers prior to their predicament, and understanding how and why they have such varying viewpoints on the subject become essential aspects to the success of the tension and conflict, as they come to loggerheads over the immigrant’s fate.
Director Anne Fontaine avoids the temptation of excessive sentimentality and rather, allows her viewers to consider all sides and ultimately share in the conflicted perspectives. Even by the end, one isn’t quite sure how to feel, or what the full truth entailed, which are arguably the key ingredients to a satisfying and thought-provoking cinematic experience.
Virginie Efira, Omar Sy and Gregory Gadebois play the three starkly different cops, combining subtle angst amidst moments of high-pressure strain with the utmost realism and poise. Likewise, Payman Maadi as the immigrant, conveys a world of emotion in very few words, only adding to the escalating tension.
As one unexpected moment leads to the next, and no outcome seems off the table, Night Shift will undoubtedly have viewers in intense anticipation of the conclusion, the stakes all the higher due its naturalistic approach, believable context and very relevant and significant subject matter.
Night Shift is screening as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival at a variety of cinemas across Melbourne until the 31st of March. For tickets and session times go here: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/
Photo courtesy of Studiocanal GmbH/Thibault Grabherr