F.I.L.M. of the Week (February 12, 2015)

12 02 2015

PolisseIn most stories about a workplace, colleagues become friends only with the greatest reluctance.  (Think “The Office.”)  The French film “Polisse,” however, shows co-workers in the Child Protection Unit who are so cordial that they could pass for a family.  When they eat lunch together, their conversations ring with an uncommon knowledge of and comfort with each other.

Writer/director Maïwenn makes these bonds and relationships formed in the line of duty the real subject of her story instead of the horrendous crimes against minors they have to investigate.  Sure, the film shows plenty of heartbreaking tales from the French underclass, and the woe of the children harmed feels distinctly real since Maïwenn based the script off of actual cases. “Polisse” is my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” though, not because of the pity and disgust their cases generate but rather because of the familiarity it creates with its expansive ensemble of characters.

The children and their abusers are usually the subject when it comes to narratives like these, so Maïwenn provides a refreshing change of page by focusing on the effects of an oft-overlooked party.  There is no sense that the events of “Polisse” are anything particularly extraordinary, yet even so, they take a tremendous toll on the police unit.  No one seems capable of simply leaving their work in the office itself, and dealing with some of the worst in humanity tends to bring out the worst in them in their personal lives.

Maybe a certain kind of person is just naturally drawn to this line of work, but Maïwenn definitely suggests that their private dysfunction corresponds to their vocational hazards.  For proof, look no further than the photographer who joins the unit to document their job.  She begins as an outsider, clearly separate from the rest of the group as she timidly observes their collegial mingling.  Yet after a few harrowing experiences, she becomes one of them.  This seemingly natural proclivity for solidarity, even in the apparent absence of human kindness, provides a reassuring glimmer of hope in “Polisse” that shines brightly through the bleakness.

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