The Measure of a Man

 

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A French working-class study that would appeal to Ken Loach on account of its commitment and social concern.

 

Measure of a Man

The man in question: Vincent Lindon 

 

Stéphane Brizé is best known here as the writer and director of the tellingly realistic romantic drama Mademoiselle Chambon (2009). That film revealed the ability of the French actor Vincent Lindon to sink into a role so that any sense of acting disappeared. Working again with Brizé in The Measure of a Man, Lindon reprises his earlier achievement even more tellingly - indeed he received the Best Actor award at Cannes last year. His role is that of Thierry, a 51-year-old factory worker who at the outset becomes unemployed, but the other players are non-professionals chosen to appear as figures close to their actual selves. They all convince, but it is Lindon’s sense of living his role that is most remarkable of all (and that’s so regardless of the fact that his facial appearance carries an odd echo of David Niven!).

The Measure of a Man seeks to capture life in an ultra-realistic way eschewing all obvious drama. We follow Thierry as, in his efforts to support a wife and an autistic son, he seeks fresh employment and we see what happens when he eventually gets a security job in a store. Descriptions of the film point to a particular development, but it happens so close to the end of the film that it seems inappropriate to reveal it. In effect, Brizé is offering us scenes from a life and he does so in a minimalist style consistently applied. Where it leads audiences should discover for themselves.

What can be said is that Brizé’s story comes across as one that expresses indignation rooted in his disapproval of treatment that he regards as less than human. Some viewers will, I am sure, share his feelings, but others may hold back somewhat despite their sense of sympathy. The potential divergence of opinion underlines the fact that another French feature film, Two Days, One Night made by the Dardenne brothers in 2014, tackled not wholly unrelated material in a way that led to a brilliantly devised concluding scene that spoke powerfully to all. The Measure of a Man is overshadowed by that comparison, but Brizé has the nerve to do exactly what he wanted to do and the reality of Vincent Lindon’s lead performance commands our attention and our approval wholeheartedly.  

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Vincent Lindon, Karine de Mirbeck, Matthieu Schiller, Catherine Saint-Bonnet, Saïd Aïssaoui, Noël Mairot, Yves Ory.


Dir Stephane Brizé, Pro Philip Boëffard, Christophe Rossignon, Stephane Brizé and others, Screenplay Stephane Brizé and Olivier Gorce, Ph Eric Dumont, Pro Des Valérie Saradjian, Ed Anne Klotz, Costumes Ann Dunsford and Diane Dussaud.


Nord-Ouest Productions/Arte France Cinéma/Canal+/Ciné+ etc.-New Wave Films.
93 mins. France. 2015. Rel: 3 June 2016. Cert. PG
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