A small domestic tiff spirals out into city-wide civil war in Catherine Corsini’s comedy-infused political drama.
Roars of delighted laughter met Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi’s central performance at the Cannes 2021 screening of Catherine Corsini’s new film, La Fracture, in what must surely be a contender for the Best Actress prize. Her character, Raf, a middle-aged lesbian in serious danger of being broken up with by her irate partner, Julie (Marina Foïs), has regressed to a child’s level of emotional intelligence. One moment she is texting stream-of-consciousness insults to Julie while she sleeps beside her, the next she is trying to land a kiss as Julie ducks out of the way.
Veering from slapstick to poignant and from naughty to wretched, her condition is equal parts raw and charming. We can see exactly why the stoic Julie is exasperated with her. Foïs is excellent as the poker face to VBT’s comic foil, grimacing with increasing storminess at Raf’s antics.
The dramatic contrast between humour and seriousness is a key tenet of La Fracture on the level of plotting as well as character. Chasing Julie down the street, Raf falls over and hurts her arm. She is taken to hospital and thus this domestic vignette intersects with a larger social situation. For it is the day of a huge yellow vest protest and rattled police have unleashed violence on demonstrators, some of whom end up in ER. Delivery driver Yann (Pio Marmaï) has been shot multiple times in the leg, and another woman has been beaten up.
Even in this sober situation, Raf continues to act as a gleeful agent of chaos. In fact, she is more badly behaved than ever, after taking an excess of pain medication. Bruni-Tedeschi delivers some high acting for the ages, engaging in spirited debate with the righteously furious Yann, and milking Julie’s dutiful reappearance at her side by attempting a reconciliation via methods that run from seductive to begging. There is simply no move she will not try.
Director Corsini swings her camera from right to left, the better to document the extent of the crises occurring in the hospital. Small characters clamour to be heard and the medical staff are given personal touches in a way that calls to mind Katell Quillévéré’s humanist medical drama Heal The Living. The film’s title hangs over this setting. People are divided/fractured, yet united by the need for care. A news channel plays footage from the yellow vest protest with an additional stake arising from the attendance of Julie’s son at an event that has drawn 124,000 souls.
As the film plays out, its political angle comes into clear focus. Police-inflicted injuries are shown in wince-inducing detail. Doctors are asked to record the names of protesters seeking treatment and have to make a decision about whose side they are on. In one shocking moment, as police pound on the glass door to be let in, it feels as if we are watching a civil war unfold in a place designed for healing. The film’s critique of state-sanctioned brutality is starkly expressed.
Police behaviour contrasts with that of the hospital staff who have their patients’ best interests at heart, however unruly they act. The agitprop nature of the film’s social commentary is leavened by the elements of skewed romance, and at the same time, the farcical relationship is made weighty by virtue of heavy themes. Sometimes the transitions between plot lines feel forced or messy, yet this is a minor quibble with a film whose personal and political ambitions are pulled off with a satisfying level of heart.
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Published 11 Jul 2021
Ryusuke Hamaguchi adapts Murukami and delivers a masterpiece study on the fickle dynamics of human emotion.
By Mark Asch
This delicate Finnish comedy of social and political manners has all the trappings of an arthouse crowd-pleaser.