If director Stéphane Brizé loved a slice of heart-string-tugging cinema, or sentimental story-telling, then you wouldn’t possibly know given his latest movie, The Measure of a Man, which plays any dramatic struggle or conflict as it would look on paper. What you see is what you get. And while countless other movies have delved into the subjects of a struggling man, poverty, family hardship, going to a job that sucks, with a handful of emotive filmic aids, Brizé gets a gritter, more honest feel by allowing us to loiter as men discuss the decline of work, a disabled son tries to riddle his parents, various shoppers and employees interrogated by management.
In a new role as a security officer, keeping eyes peeled and assisting some disciplinary meetings, Thierry, beyond 50, is fed-up and frustrated. We don’t know exactly how his life has gone by over the years, but Vincent Lindon’s face tell us Thierry’s recent spell of unemployment has taken it’s toll on his confidence and faith in himself, and the job marketplace. A brewing, commanding performance from Lindon (Best Actor winner at Cannes and the César Awards), his subtlety portrays a man who just keeps on going. Doing what he has to do. Often painful to watch, anyone who appreciates the turbulence of working class woes will truly feel for Thierry during his awkward work meetings and character assassination during a session were his demeanor and résumé come under some stick.
The Measure of a Man is an intrusive, observational drama of the tough everyday, but so voyeuristic at times with little drama or action the movie threatens to disappear altogether. Like a flat documentary that will fade from you should you not engage in its subject matter. It is certainly not for the audience that craves melodrama, twists, or indeed a tear-jerker. That is to say that often the measure of a movie has to incorporate some semblance of plot and captivation. Saying that, Brizé probably got what he set out in the first place, but he knows very well this is not going to be for everyone.