DIR: Rebecca Zlotowski • WRI: Gaëlle Macé, Rebecca Zlotowski • PRO:Frederic Jouve • DOP George Lechaptois • ED: Julien Lacheray • DES: Antoine Platteau • CAST:Tahar Rahim, Léa Seydoux, Olivier Gourmet
For some reason I always go into French films with high expectations, I don’t know if this is due to the fact that I’ve enjoyed most of the French films I’ve seen, or whether I’ve been programmed to view European cinema as somewhat more sophisticated and nuanced than your typical Hollywood fair. Either way I entered the screening of Grand Central with high expectations, with my hand at the ready to give myself a cultural pat on the back for enjoying the film, and enjoy the film I did.
Grand Central is the second feature film from the French writer director Rebecca Zlotowski, and the film follows Gary, a young man with an implied dark past who takes up a job at a nuclear power plant in Rhone, where it becomes evident that danger lurks at almost every turn. Gary was told by an employment officer at the start of the film that this was the only viable opportunity for him to gain employment.
He joins a crew there, who seem to have built up a very close bond, as they put their safety in each other’s hands on a daily basis. Living in a trailer park with his supervisor Giles and veteran Toni, he soon starts up a love affair with Toni’s fiancée Carole. This relationship leads Gary to put his life in danger by continuing to work at the plant despite the fact that he has tested positive for high radiation levels, meaning he is knowingly putting his health at risk to continue the affair.
Despite being a French language film a lot of the actors will be familiar to mainstream moviegoers. Toni is played by Denis Menochet, who many of you will recognise as the farmer from the mesmerising opening scene of Inglorious Bastards, while Lea Seydoux, who plays Carole, is an-up-and-coming star of international cinema with film credits like Robin Hood, and Mission Impossible 4 already under her belt.
There are many things to like about the film, but there’s no doubt that Seydoux’s performance is what stands out the most. She perfectly captures a confused young woman, who loves two different men in two completely different ways, so much so that we never judge her for her infidelity, as we realise there is no clear cut resolution. I have no doubt that her deep, sad eyes will continue to be forceful cinematic weapons for years to come.
Other aspects of the film that stand out, are some beautifully shot scenes that capture Karole and Gary’s romance blossoming in the fields and woods surrounding the trailer park, representing the naturalness of their relationship in contrast to her relationship with Toni, who is considerably older than her.
Unfortunately the script is clunky, and some of the dialogue and sequences tend to stretch the boundaries of belief, particularly in regard to the relationship between Karole and Toni. I also feel that the film misses a big opportunity to make more of the tension that arises from the dangerous working conditions in the Nuclear plant.
Despite these flaws, all in all the film is well worth watching, particularly if you, like me, love to like French Cinema.
Grand Central is released on 18th July 2014