Police (Night Shift)
Director Anne Fontaine’s latest effort manages to be middlebrow entertainment for a middle-aged, middle class audience, with an approachable motif and easily identifiable subtext. Given its moderate ambitions, the film is a success, but Police never truly rises beyond being a perfectly capable piece of filmmaking.
Virginie Efira is Virginie, a married Parisian police officer engaged in an affair with a colleague – the fallout of which has resulted in her choosing to have an abortion. Aristide (Omar Sy) is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, after a botched police operation led to the death of a fellow officer. And then there’s Erik (Grégory Gadebois), whose home life appears to consist of snide arguments with his wife and her efforts to get him to give up smoking, although this alludes to a relationship that is truly on the rocks. The three are tasked with transporting Tohirov (Payman Maadi), a failed Tajikistani asylum seeker, to the airport for deportation, and face a moral quandary when they realise that his return will almost certainly result in his execution.
The characters are introduced with their own title cards, and the first third of the film shows the officers at work and at home, their domestic malcontent often mirrored in the grim situations they face at work. These sequences rub up against each other in terms of the narrative’s continuity, and even overlap. It’s sometimes a case of the same story experienced in adjacent rooms. This approach is ditched before too long, and the bulk of Police actually takes place during the drive to the airport, with brief power struggles between the trio of officers as they debate the moral implications of their current assignment.
The abrupt, changeable nature of the character’s decision-making process stretches credibility. Yes, they’re all experiencing some form of anguish in their personal lives, and if anything, Police asks whether law enforcement officers can maintain the necessary objectivity in a situation that requires delicate subjectivity. It turns out that they can’t – or at least, not so clearly. The lazy ambiguity of their rationale for their hasty changes of heart means that something about Police never truly clicks into place.
Police (Night Shift) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
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Watch the trailer for Police (Night Shift) here: