Now one of French cinema’s best known actors, Vincent Lindon exudes what is perhaps best described as ‘down-to-earthness’. For the most part he tends to play a decent sort who can be relied on to do the right thing, and Lindon is the only professional actor in Stéphane Brizé's 'The Measure of a Man', since the other parts were played by people who in real life do much the same jobs as they do in the film.
The film looks at the effects of a straitened economy and unemployment on ordinary people, and in the opening scene Thierry (Lindon), already out of work for over a year, is complaining about the pointlessness of having been sent on a course to learn how to operate cranes when there are no jobs available. He’s not being difficult or rebellious; he’s just a guy in his fifties with a wife and disabled son who hopes to go on to further education and wants to hang on to his home and hard-earned savings. Happily, he gets a job in the security department of a supermarket.
Well, happily is not the right word. While the new job brings in money and reminds him of the advantages of solidarity – there’s a touching scene when a woman retiring after decades at the supermarket is serenaded by colleagues – it can also put Thierry in a difficult position. He believes in the law, but what to do with someone who’s tried to steal 15 euros worth of food but hasn’t the money to pay for it?
Brizé deploys a deftly observational low-key realism to chart Thierry’s progress from disenchantment and near-despair to relief and then something else entirely. Little is stated explicitly and little out of the ordinary happens. The most ‘dramatic’ events occur off-screen which focuses attention more closely on the ethical nuances of everyday life. The result is at once compassionate, engrossing from start to finish, and utterly relevant.