3 October 2016 | Red-125
A highly skilled worker unable to find suitable work
The French Film La loi du marché was shown in the United States with the title The Measure of a Man (2015). It was co-written and directed by Stéphane Brizé.
In a short introduction before the film began, the presenter pointed out the the actual translation of the French title would be "The Law of the Market." Both titles tell us something about the plot of the movie. "The Measure of a Man" emphasizes the basic humanity of the protagonist. "The Law of the Market" emphasizes the basic inhumanity of the marketplace-driven society in which he lives.
Vincent Lindon plays Thierry Taugourdeau, who has lost his skilled labor job because of a factory closure. (Other displaced workers want to sue the company for pulling out of France to go elsewhere. Apparently, this isn't legal if the company is making a profit in France. However, Thierry isn't interested.)
Thierry is accustomed to getting a good salary in a respected job. As the film opens, we learn that he has taken a three-month course in order to learn how to be a crane operator. He informs the government employment counselor that the course was worthless. Companies will only employ crane operators that are already experienced construction workers. Why did they advise him to take a course that couldn't lead to employment?
The film continues in the same vein. Thierry truly wants to work to support himself, his wife, and his son with cerebral palsy. (The son is portrayed by Matthieu Schaller, who does indeed have cerebral palsy.)
We follow Thierry from frustration to frustration as nothing he does brings him employment. Finally, he obtains employment, and that is where the measure of a man begins.
This is a fascinating--but painful--movie to watch. We're accustomed to unhappy stories in which the protagonists are down-and-out, and the situation is hopeless. This plot doesn't fit into that mold. Thierry has had a comfortable, middle-class life. He's intelligent and resourceful. Even so, he can't counter the forces of society that tell him that he and his family have to move down a notch--or more--in order to survive.
Vincent Lindon is brilliant in this role. We can identify with him and it is not a comfortable feeling. Lindon won the Best Actor award at Cannes for this portrayal, and I'm not surprised. It's worth seeing this film just for an opportunity to watch a superb actor succeeding in a difficult role.
We saw this film in the excellent Dryden Theatre in Rochester's George Eastman Museum. It was shown a part of the outstanding Rochester Labor Film Series.
For reasons I don't understand, this movie has a dismal IMDb rating of 6.8. Possibly, reviewers found it simply too depressing. Yes, it's depressing, but it reflects reality, and I think it's definitely worth seeking out. It's available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It's too important a film to miss.