Reviews by Joyce Glasser Between two worlds (May 27, 2022) Certificate 12A, 107 min
while watching The English patient As early as 1996, the world knew that Juliette Binoche was a great beauty. Since 2013 when she appeared in Camille Claudel, 1915 there was no doubt that she was a great actress. but Between two worlds isn’t the first time she’s dedicated her talents to a misguided endeavor that might have sounded good on paper. Based on the book by French journalist Florence Aubenas, writer-director Emmanuel Carrère explores the world of non-contractual work in this unsubtly titled film designed to enlighten, and perhaps shame, the bourgeoisie and politicians. It’s a worthy venture, but he’s not the French answer to Paul Laverty and Ken Loach.
We are in Caen, the bustling port in Normandy where the movement of boats, trains and cars and industrialization represented by concrete, traffic and shipping set the scene. An attractive, middle-aged woman has an appointment for an interview and, of course, is asked what she has been up to for the last 23 years. “I was married and had children,” says Marianne Winckler (Binoche), not really trying to sell herself, as the serious civil servant opposite her suggests.
In fact, Winckler is actually a Parisian journalist whose personal life is vague in the film but doesn’t appear to include any children. The officer suggests that she try her hand as a cleaning lady. At the job center, she meets co-worker Cedric (Didier Pupin) and surprisingly goes to lunch at this stranger’s modest apartment, conveniently located next door.
She tells Cedric the cover story she is supposed to tell her colleagues. She doesn’t know anyone in Caen who cut short her comfortable life in Paris after her husband cheated on her and left the city for some reason. Sometimes she finds it exciting to exist only for herself.
The morality of Marianne’s investigation is examined in a scene where her honesty is met with accusations that “the people who come here can’t stop when they’re bored”. Marianne will not take a job from anyone as she will quit as soon as she is offered a permanent contract. Deceiving her peers is another matter, and the varied reactions to her revelation after the book’s release are well dramatized.
Until then, and for most of the film, we see Marianne trying to master the training that entails cleaning toilets or being a maid on a ferry in temporary jobs. She learns firsthand how exhausting and soul-wrecking the back-breaking routine is. But the big difference is that she knows it’s short-term and that the resulting book should make money.
Most people her age are bosses, so she hangs out with girls in their late teens and 20’s, some of whom work long shifts on public transit, working two long shift jobs. Her co-workers include a variety of mostly women (“men don’t clean toilets,” we hear) whom Marianne is friends with. But the core of the film is her growing friendship with a grumpy, unruly, and wary single mother, Chrystèle (Hélène Lambert).
The tension in the film lies in this relationship, as Chrystèle may not be literate, but she does have street smarts and survival instincts. She senses that there is something fishy about Marianne and her story, and we keep waiting for the moment when Chrystèle finds out what it is.
About halfway through, when Chrystèle rummages in Marianne’s bag and examines her ID, we think it’s game over, but Chrystèle just wants to know her new friend’s birthday and gives her a necklace and a modest celebration with their kids.
Chrystèle, who suffers from a chronic cough but cannot afford to be away for a day, works two jobs, the first from 6am to 11:30am at the port. Since she has a long walk there, Marianne offers to take her with her and works as a cleaning lady on the night ferry. The job is minimum wage and you’ll be fired if you’re late. With 230 rooms, each cleaning lady has 4 minutes per room – including a change of bed linen. Marianne has trouble keeping up.
There are moments of leisure. Marianne goes bowling with Cedric and the girls and plays on the beach with Chrystèle’s children. There’s even a farewell on the ferry, as a glamorous cleaner (Émily Madeleine) – who has legs so long she could be a Vogue model – heads off to a better future.
But you wonder how Marianne feels in those moments when she is involved in leisure and social circles that are not her own. The scene in which Marianne cuddles up on a bed in the ferry with Chrystèle and another worker like boarding school girls is downright creepy, because Marianne is twice her age.
You have to give him credit for not embellishing Carrère. No one gets flogged, but there are disgusting restrooms and vengeful overseers. The sets are very real; The problem is that the drama lacks emotional veracity. Just as we cannot believe Marianne, it is difficult to believe anyone else, except intellectually, because we know such people exist.
And therein lies the catch. We know that this gap exists in capitalist societies (and communist societies, as it happened). In particular, TV programs and news discussions about zero-hour contracts flooded our TV screens before Covid and of course Loach’s Oscar winners I, Daniel Blake and his last movie sorry i missed you Focus on insecure work, the humiliation of the labor market and the gap between the working class and everyone else.
Of course, the societal imperative is that the market can accommodate many more films on the subject, but Between two worlds, while remarkably accurate, has nothing new to offer. Perhaps because Marianne is an outsider looking in, it never feels urgent or touches an emotional chord like Sorry, I Missed You did.
Juliette Binoche stars in this worthy endeavor, but Emmanuel Carrère is no match for Paul Laverty and Ken Loach.
Source link Juliette Binoche stars in this worthy endeavor, but Emmanuel Carrère is no match for Paul Laverty and Ken Loach.