Review by Nathan Samdahl (A)
To put it simply, Polisse is by far one of the best films of the year, and of the last several years. As another critic accurately put it, Polisse is like a season of The Wire packed into one film. As The Wire is one of my all-time favorite shows, this film proved to be endlessly fascinating and affecting.
The film explores the lives of the officers that make up the Child Protection Unit of the Parisian police force (think the French version of SVU). Very much like The Wire, in gritty and grounded fashion, the story focuses on the daily minutiae of the officers as they investigate and solve cases involving child molesters, child abuse, polygamy, etc. The cases are extremely disturbing and worst of all, many are pulled directly from the real-life files of the CPU.
However, no one case consumes the entire film, but rather they come and go in more vignette fashion. The true focus is on how the officers deal with their incredibly stressful and demanding jobs.
Surprisingly, the film offers many moments of levity as the group will laugh and make jokes about the cases and people involved, often while they sit right in front of them. In one instance, the group is interrogating an underage girl who gave a blowjob to someone so she could get her phone back. She justifies it because it was a smart phone and the officers jokingly ask what she'd do for a laptop. At times I wasn't sure whether I should laugh along or be disturbed at their sense of humor. But above all else, being able to laugh seems like an essential part of surviving the job.
The film is beautifully written and directed by Maïwenn, who also plays one of the film's leads, Melissa. Ironically, given the immense power of her filmmaking, Maïwenn gives herself one of the mousiest roles (yet very much one of the most transformative). The entire cast is superb, particularly Joey Starr, who brings an intensity to his role like few others.
Polisse has it all. It's dramatic, comedic, disturbing, painful and touching. It's the kind of film I could easily watch for 10 hours and still be craving more. This is a film not to be missed, but have no misperceptions: it is not for the faint of heart. Even with the strength of films coming out this year, look for Polisse to very much remain in the conversation of the year's best.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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