The Measure of a Man (2015) La loi du marché

Cast includes: Vincent Lindon (Anything for Her), Karine de Mirbeck, Matthieu Schaller
Writer/Director: Stéphane Brizé (Not Here to Be Loved, Mademoiselle Chambon)
Genre: Drama (93 minutes) French with subtitles

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“I’ve finished the course, and at the end there are no jobs,” says Thierry. The placement counselor points out that Thierry has no experience in the field. “Then I should have been told before I wasted the money and the 4 months.” The counselor tries to sell Thierry on another course. “It’s bullshit. You’re conning people.” [Scene change] “How many drops of water can you put in an empty glass?” Thierry’s son, Matthieu asks during dinner. Many would dismiss this seemingly pointless riddle because Matthieu’s severe physical handicaps make communicating with him such a challenge. But Thierry and his wife are devoted to their son and making sure he has all the opportunities they can give him. [Scene change] “I don’t know if it serve any purpose,” says Thierry in response to the management audit of the layoffs. His fellow laid-off workers want to sue, but Thierry just wants to move on. “Draw a line and move forward…” But finding another job is “like winning the lottery.” Isn’t that the truth! And no one knows it better than Thierry, who has so much responsibility. [Scene change]

Thierry’s Skype interview doesn’t go well. While he has plenty of experience, his old firm used software version 7, and the rather arrogant interviewer is looking for someone who’s already trained on version 8. At the risk of offending Thierry, the interviewer offers some words of advice… “You need to improve your resume. It should be written better… (whatever that means).” Despite Thierry’s willingness to accept a lower position with flexible hours, the interviewer tells him there’s little chance he’ll get this job. [Scene change] The loan agent isn’t inclined to approve the loan Thierry needs for Matthieu’s school and instead offers advice about selling his home and buying life insurance.

We follow Thierry from one dehumanizing scene to another. Although his chances of finding a new job are very slim, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to support his family. He’s willing to subject himself to critiques of his interviewing skills, his clothing choices and even his body language. The job he finally finds in security at a warehouse-style grocery store will at least feed his family. He learns to monitor the 80 security cameras and participate in interrogations of shoplifters… yet all too often, he feels like he’s almost in the same boat with the shoplifters. The Measure of a Man is a brutal and intimate look at how an ordinary middle-aged man struggles to navigate a system where the decks are stacked against him. Writer/director Stéphane Brizé has taken the French naturalistic film style to an extreme level, casting non-actors in most of the roles. The film often feels more like a documentary than a scripted film. One of the few professional actors, Vincent Lindon, subtly captures the powerful truth of trying to maintain one’s humanity in a system that is callously void of humanity… especially for older workers. It’s a very depressing, yet moving social statement that many of us can relate to. It’s not a movie designed to entertain, and some moviegoers won’t be comfortable with the many unresolved threads… one of the devices that makes the film so realistic. When one of those threads does resolve tragically, the supervisor tells employees, “No one should feel responsible.” Since when did humanity become a tradeoff for survival?

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

A laid-off man struggles to find another job and support his family

Popcorn Profile

Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Art House 
Mood: Depressing
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Finding work after a layoff
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking  

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