Realistic dialogue and a deft script lift this from being just a grim French police story about child protection in Paris. You can see why it won the Cannes jury prize in 2011.
Closer in feel to a documentary or a TV drama than anything else, there are harrowing moments that remind me of the most shocking plots of “NYPD Blue” or the techniques of “The Wire”. This is strictly for those with strong stomachs.
Based on genuine cases, you follow the team as they question children and those who may be abusing them. It’s raw and real, yet creates a very attractive ensemble and shows them at work and at play.
Director and co-writer Maiwenn suggests that those examining damaged people may be just as damaged themselves. Nevertheless, there are quite a lot of fun scenes that suggest joy and redemption.
Do you believe you become what you do? There were a few social workers at the Stratford Picturehouse who had a heated discussion about professional detachment and the lack of it, in “Polisse”, after the film finished.
“Polisse” is a slang term for “police” in French and the style of the language is natural and includes lots of swearing. The English subtitles are generally good, but have some serious weaknesses.
“Ferme ta gueule” is rude, but it’s more “shut your mouth” vulgar than the “shut the f*** up” of the subtitles. Homeless people may be looking for a hostel or foyer placement, but they are not looking for the “hospice” of the subtitles, unless they are dying.
Maiwenn plays photographer Melissa who is assigned to the unit as a publicity exercise. We never see any of her photos.
Of the excellent ensemble, the standout performances are from Joeystarr (that’s how he spells it), Karin Viard and Marina Fois. Emmanuelle Bercot, the co-writer, is also very good in the smallish role of Sue Ellen.
Every member of the cast adds value. The soundtrack is pretty special too.
If you can handle strong material, do see it. All 127 minutes are beautifully crafted and fascinating.