“The Measure of a Man” review: Vincent Lindon carries the film, which looks at how work defines us, on his slumped shoulders. Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.
Stéphane Brizé’s “The Measure of a Man” feels so real, you’re almost startled when it’s over — it seems as if this French drama about a middle-aged husband and father facing unemployment should just go on, as life tends to do. Thierry (Vincent Lindon), we learn, was laid off from his steady factory job as a machine operator. Now he’s seeking work, being lectured by bank managers and employment counselors, and enduring perfunctory job interviews on Skype, at the end of which he’s told that he probably doesn’t have a chance of being hired. (You see the air coming out of Thierry on those words, ever so faintly.)
Eventually, he does land a job as security guard at a big-box store. But that work, though welcome, brings its own humiliations: Thierry and his colleagues are required to keep surveillance not just on customers but fellow employees, and to report any infractions, however trivial — even if it means the employee will lose her job.
Lindon, surrounded here by nonprofessional (and yet vivid) actors, carries the film on his slumped shoulders; his Thierry has a thick mustache that seems to be pulling down his face, and hollow eyes that seem to be seeking the answer to an unasked question. But we see, in his gentleness with his disabled son and devotion to his wife (he shuffles uncomfortably through a dance class, presumably just for her), a man of great stature. It’s a small film that touches on large issues: the world of work, and how it defines us. You leave it feeling you’ve met someone, and wishing him well.
Movie Review ★★★
‘The Measure of a Man,’ with Vincent Lindon, Yves Ory, Karine de Mirbeck, Matthieu Schaller. Directed by Stéphane Brizé, screen-play by Brizé and Olivier Gorce. 91 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In French with English subtitles. Sundance (21+).