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Review of ‘On a Quay in Normandy’

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To question the figure of the impostor in social realism cinema.

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Direction: Emmanuel Carrere Distribution: Juliette Binoche, Hélène Lambert, Léa Carne, Emily Madeleine, Patricia Prieur, Evelyne Porée Original title: Le Quai de Ouistreham Country: France Year: 2021 Release date: 01-28-2022 Gender: Drama Script: Emmanuel Carrère, Hélène Devynck. Novel: Florence Aubenas Photography: patrick blossier Synopsis: Marianne Winckler, a renowned author, decides to write a book about job insecurity, experiencing this reality first-hand. To do this, hiding her identity, she gets a job as a cleaner in a town in Normandy, northern France, and discovers a life ignored by the rest of society in which every euro earned or spent matters. Despite the harshness of the experience, the solidarity between colleagues creates strong bonds of friendship between Marianne and them. Mutual help leads to friendship and friendship to trust, but what happens to this trust when the truth comes out?

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The best: Hélène Lambert, the non-professional actress always up there with Juliette Binoche.

The worst: it is too neat.

At its start, the third feature film directed by fellow writer Emmanuel Carrère It reminds us of the films of the Dardenne brothers or Ken Loach. The film immerses us in the tribulations of various characters in an employment office in Caen, in Normandy, in a harrowing and accurate portrait of the daily face of job insecurity and the limits of the social services that try to placate it. But, as the footage progresses, the voiceover of the main character, Marianne, played by Juliette Binoche, introduces an element of distortion. And we realize that the actress is not playing an unemployed middle-aged woman. Instead, she gives life to a character who in turn poses as someone looking for a job. Carrère could have uncovered the identity of the protagonist, a writer who puts herself in the shoes of an unemployed woman in order to explain her precariousness from her own experience, from the beginning given the literary origin of the project. But, through this game with the spectator, he situates the story in the territory that most interests him. Because ‘On a dock in Normandy’ unfolds, effectively, as a drama about the labor exploitation of cleaning workers. However, the film does not stop here and also contains a reflection very much in line with the author of ‘The Adversary’ on how certain realistic approximations always imply a certain amount of imposture.

The director operates in the coordinates of docu-fiction based on the strategy inaugurated by Roberto Rossellini in ‘Stromboli’: he inserts a well-known actress in a realistic context so that, on the one hand, Binoche works as an artifice that reminds us the constructed nature of the film, and on the other, unites the melodramatic aspect of the social document. To end up questioning the honesty of someone who forces a fictitious scenario to narrate a reality from the self.

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Source: Fotogramas

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