Director: Robert Guédiguian. France, 2011. 107 minutes. Cert: CLUB. Language: French (subtitled).
Fifty-year-old Michel is a man of principle. When his union holds a lottery to see which men will be laid off, he includes his name, and finds himself faced with early retirement. It’s an adjustment, but he has his modest pension, a happy marriage and plenty of grandchildren to occupy his time, along with the sense that he did the right thing.
Then, one evening, Michel and his wife are the victims of a crime. The trauma of this crime is bad enough, but when Michel learns the identity of one of the perpetrators, his complacency is shaken. Has he become a smug member of the middle class? “What would we have thought of us,” he asks his wife, Marie Claire, “Try to imagine us, 30 years ago.”
Based on a poem (“How Good Are the Poor?”) by Victor Hugo, this gentle film is about the ethical and emotional adjustments of middle age, as Michel’s sense of social justice struggles with his personal rage against the unrepentant young man who robbed and beat him.
Ariane Ascaride is delightful as Michel’s assertive and supportive wife, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin delivers a thoughtful performance as an ordinary man who aspires – not always successfully – to a more than ordinary morality.
Set in Marseille, the signature location of art-house director Robert Guédiguian, this beautiful film scores impressive emotional moments as moral certainties are challenged.