Two worlds collide & a drunk-driving incident becomes the occasion for a trenchant analysis of contemporary French culture.
Excellent acting by the three principals, but alas the third world (ironically here the upper middle class world of the witness who becomes a reluctant intermediary) is more assumed than depicted. Otherwise? Perfect! (JLH: 4.5/5)
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Somewhere on the outskirts of Paris, three guys are horsing around. They’re drunk and they shouldn’t be driving, but they are. Then out comes a cell phone and they start looking at pictures and… bam! They have hit something and the fun is over.
The driver, “Al” (Raphaël Personnaz), gets out of the car, and finds an injured man lying face down in the middle of the dark deserted street. Seeing Al frozen in place, “Franck” (Reda Kateb), the more crass of Al’s two companions, urgently pleads with him to flee. It’s late. No one is around. They need to leave immediately, before anyone can put them at the scene.
Just as Al heads back to the car, a woman named “Juliette” (Clotilde Hesme) catches a glimpse of him from her upper window, but he gets in the car and drives away without noticing. Juliette calls for help and as paramedics carry the victim into an ambulance, she tells the police what little she knows.
That might have been the end of it, but neither Al nor Juliette can let go. Propelled by guilt—Al for what he has already done and Juliette because she cannot do more—they both become obsessed with the fate of the injured man.
Juliette is attractive, well-spoken, and obviously upper middle class, so people at the hospital tell her more than they should. On some level, they also realize that Juliette is useful. They are understaffed and she wants to help; what’s the harm in that? So Juliette doggedly assembles her clues until she locates the victim’s wife “Vera” (Arta Dobroshi), and that’s when she learns that the family is Moldavian, living and working illegally in France.
Writer/director Catherine Corsini takes these three characters and builds a complex morality tale around them. The great virtue of her screenplay is that Corsini, along with her excellent actors, is able to take three “types” and transform them into uniquely shaded individuals who each have strength and weaknesses. Al is not all bad, Vera is not all good, and Juliette is more than just a monkey-in-the-middle.
Raphaël Personnaz is almost too handsome for words, and that fact helps explain how the character called Al comes to find himself in such a difficult position. Al and Franck were likely equals at one point, with Franck maybe even having a slight edge due to age and physical stature, but by the time of the accident, their future prospects have been diverging for years. Forced to the sidelines, Franck, who has neither Al’s dazzling smile nor his perfect manners, has become enraged by Al’s professional success, so he seizes on his opportunity to use the accident as a leveler.
Arta Dobroshi is also very attractive, but she plays a character far more cunning that Al. She sizes Juliette up very quickly, and manipulates her easily. Even though she realizes that she is putting Juliette in danger, she has no qualms about it. In one extremely dramatic confrontation with hospital administrators, Vera is very forceful in her demands and thoroughly convinced of her own entitlement. She never once thanks them for treating her husband even though she knows that they know she has no financial resources and will never be able to pay for any of his care. (What with all the current chatter about immigration reform, this scene really made me cringe.)
Why does Juliette allow herself to be drawn in so deep? If the film has a weakness, this is it. Maybe Juliette is just one of those “First World” types who want to do something about the woes of the world without having a clue what, but Clotilde Hesme’s performance convinced me of the depth of Juliette’s concern.
I really love this film. Minute-to-minute, I had no idea what would happen next, and the journey was much more intricate and thought-provoking than I expected. When Three Worlds was over, I left the theatre drained but emotionally satisfied.
Top Photo: “Al” (Raphaël Personnaz) considers his options.
Bottom Photo: Personnaz with Arta Dobroshi (middle) & Clotilde Hesme (right).
Photo Credits: Hassen Brahiti/Film Movement