Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Maiwenn's excellent police drama Polisse follows the Parisian Child Protection Unit, expertly weaving officers' personal and work lives. Maiwenn plays Melissa, a quiet photographer who is more of a cipher than a fully drawn character, but she serves as the audience's eyes. The force is filled with more dynamic characters, including Joey Starr's passionate Fred, Karin Viard's insecure Nadine, and Marina Fois's bitter Iris.

The workers are dedicated professionals, but that isn't to say they are patient or polite. Often more intimate with their peers than their lovers, they are more reliable parents than spouses. Plagued with alcoholism, depression, and neuroses, there is a sense that our heroes could explode at any time. In fact, many of them do, and their rants about the trials of their job are repetitive but believable. In spite of the numerous storylines, careful editing and naturalistic, sometimes unbearably raw, acting distinguishes the various characters.

This work is neither easy nor cut-and-dried. Suspects range from tearful to unrepentant, and the young victims sometimes don't want to be torn away from their abusers. Relationships between the officers are also intense and complicated, whether they are platonic friendships or romances, repressed or consummated. In spite of the harrowing subject matter, characters often mask their pain as humor, and there are rare moments of relief and pure jubilation.

While some plots are underdeveloped (this would have been a fascinating miniseries), the film manages to follow quite a few stories as well as touch on broader issues such as bureaucracy and cultural clashes. The conclusion is simultaneously inconclusive, heavy-handed, and effective, suggesting that these prickly workers struggle through life and sacrifice themselves for the children. Aided by hand-held camera work, the gripping Polisse feels real.

French with English subtitles.