Parisian couple Raf (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Julie (Marina Foïs) are facing separation after ten years together. Having bombarded her sleeping partner with angry texts in the middle of the night, the next morning Raf tries a different approach to get her girlfriend to stay: faithful adherence. Running after her in the street, she takes a bad fall, fracturing her elbow. Meanwhile the city is filling up with protestors – the so-called “yellow vests” are rallying against president Macron. Truck driver Yann (Pio Marmaï) and his friend are part of the ruction. Not anticipating the police’s readiness to use violence, Yann is shot at and injured. Raf and Yann meet as they are treated at the same hospital, along with an incessant stream of other patients and overextended health staff.
Taking place almost entirely during this one night in the emergency room, The Divide feels like a sophisticated chamber play. The French public hospital works as the perfect setting for people from varying backgrounds and walks of life to end up in the same boat. Stakes are high by default.
The performances are altogether captivating, but the heart of the film is undoubtedly non-actress and real-life caregiver Aïssatou Diallo Sagna, who plays nurse Kim. Co-writers Corsini, Agnès Feuvre and Laurette Polmanss bring a well executed script; the dialogue is sharp and funny, the sentiment behind it the belief that humour is the spoonful of sugar to sweeten the focus on the bitter medicine of France’s political division.
Director Catherine Corsini shows sensitivity in her depiction of the varying circumstances and motivations of the people who have taken to the street. She lays aside any preconceived notions about who would call for Macron to resign, when the alternative at his election would have been far-right Le Pen.
While an international festival is the perfect platform not only to show new work but to raise awareness for wide-ranging injustices, it is nonetheless difficult for foreigners to assess another country’s political situation through fiction. One wonders whether this film would hit a different nerve if, say, a German filmmaker were to attempt a rationalisation of the current “lateral thinker” movement, where people fed up with Merkel’s Covid politics march alongside conspiracy theorists and neo-Nazis.
The Divide does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.