MOVIE REVIEW: The Measure of a Man

An Unemployed man in France is trying to start over again after the factory that he worked in for years lets him and many more go.  While trying to rebuild his career hopes he has to suffer the indignities that come with this new age of economics and struggles to keep his family life together.  His wife and disabled son pull together and do their best to keep his spirits up.

This French language film could have been set anywhere in the world over the last 10 years.  The economic collapse that has touched the lives of the ordinary people on our planet is perfectly summed up in this very human tale.  Companies have used this recession to increase their profits by letting skilled workers go to take down their costs.  Men who have worked and shown loyalty to their companies for decades have been shown the door, even when there has been no reason for them to be let go.

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Vincent Lindon plays Thierry, the man who is struggling with being out of a job, it’s a beautifully simple performance that reminds you of the performances from the movies of Ken Loach.  Realistic and honest.  The truth is that all the performances here are that way.  Thierry goes through the processes that the French system has set up for unemployed men, willing to do any course and retrain for any job, he’s willing to take a massive pay cut as long as he can provide for his family.

When you see the hyper realistic way that the Director approaches the subject matter of a man in his 40’s having to go back to the job market, having to sell off his holiday trailer, having to fight for the chance to feel worthy of the love and responsibility of life, it makes you care about the character that he is.  You see the system that thinks it is helping these people, putting them on training courses for jobs that they will never get, just to say that they are keeping people off the social security system.  Having to have interviews on Skype with future employers being rude because they know the market is so open that they don’t have to treat people like people.  To the well-meaning people who help Thierry with his interview skills and tear his soul apart.

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One scene in the film where he is getting judged on his interview skills by other job seekers makes you feel ashamed of how we treat other people.  Yes it’s done to help him but when the camera is stuck on the face of Thierry and he’s sitting there taking this rubbish critique by other people, you know that he’s only holding it together because he loves his family and wants to provide for them.  It’s an all too real tale, as some friends on mine tell me, but it’s happening to a lot of people around the world.

When Thierry finally finds a job in the retail security sector you can feel the relief for the first time in the film, Lindon’s smile becomes real almost.  Then the realities of his job, not just catching out-and-out thieves, but also fellow employees and the needy.  All stealing for different reasons.  You can see him understanding some of those stealing just to feed their families.

While it’s a story with no great moments it’s still a great film.  It shows one many trying to regain that pride that comes from providing for your family and working for the money that he needs.  It shows the systems in place that are trying to help but in a way that can destroy the soul.  We all need to sit up and pay attention to see this character going through this, and take from it that it’s not about the fall, it’s about the continuation of our lives.

Director: Stéphane Brizé
Writers: Stéphane Brizé (screenplay), Olivier Gorce (screenplay)
Stars: Vincent Lindon, Karine de Mirbeck, Matthieu Schaller

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