The Measure of a Man (2015)

The Measure of a Man (2015)

A French social realist drama that’s heartening in spite of its realistic horrors

The Very Best



Christophe Rossignon, Karine de Mirbeck, Mathieu Schaller
93 min


Good luck not feeling self-conscious in a supermarket once you’ve watched the CCTV scenes here.

What it's about

After he’s unjustly fired, a middle-aged father struggles to find a job — but, once he does, he’s forced to decide how complicit he wants to be in corporate greed.

The take

If you’ve ever seen a movie by kings of social realism Ken Loach or the Dardenne brothers, you’ll recognize the cinematic tradition The Measure of a Man is coming from, but if you haven’t, don’t fear. The filmmaking here isn’t complicated, academic, or laden with references — in fact, the opposite is true. Stylistically pared back, the intensely modern and human story at the movie’s center expands to fill the frame so we have nowhere else to look.

With a disabled son to provide for, middle-aged Thierry (Vincent Lindon) desperately searches for a job, undergoing several state-required indignities — such as practice interview sessions in which fellow jobseekers critique everything from his body language to his tone of voice — just for a shot at being able to pay his bills. So many scenes and conversations here are palpably laden with the anxieties of real life, both economic and personal. And yet, for all the dehumanization and desperation clouding its edges, Measure of a Man isn’t a hopeless movie. We’re reminded by happy scenes at home just how rich Thierry’s life is, unemployed or not — but it's perhaps his moral compass, which begins to twitch when he takes a security job with an unscrupulous corporate employer, that’s most heartening of all.

What stands out

Thierry isn’t one given to airing his feelings very often, but he doesn’t need to be because Lindon makes all of his deeply buried emotions instinctively understandable. In his hands, the film is profoundly involving: it’s excruciating to watch Thierry silently, valiantly bear the weight of dehumanization he has to go through to get a job, just as you feel the injustice of the absurd bureaucratic system he has to contend with. Nothing is ever overplayed. though; Lindon never breaks the tone set by the no-frills filmmaking style and his non-professional castmates. His performance is absolutely central to the movie's quiet power, and not one you’re likely to forget once you see it — a very much deserved winner of the Best Actor award at Cannes.


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