REVIEW – Polisse (2011)

FilmJuice have my review of Maiwenn’s award-winning police drama Polisse.

The critical success of The Wire and The Sopranos has created something of a market for intelligent police procedural dramas. Incapable of keeping up with demand, British TV has begun casting its net further afield than the anglophonic sphere resulting in the explosive popularity of French series like Spiral and Braquo and Scandinavian series such as The Killing and The Bridge. Clearly designed to tap into a similar zeitgeist, Maiwenn’s Polisse is an intelligent and bleak police drama set around a Parisian child protection unit.

Maiwenn decided to make the film after seeing a documentary about child protection units. Drawing on her showbiz contacts, the director embedded herself in a working police unit and recreated everything she saw on set with actors. In other words, when a stressed single mother explains that one of her sons is better behaved than the other because she jerks him off every night, chances are that someone actually said that to a police officer in front of this film’s director.  Even more astonishing is the fact that the woman’s naïve belief that this type of behaviour is a normal part of parenting is utterly convincing and disarmingly human. Shot in a documentary style and performed by an absolutely fearless cast of adult and child actors, these little vignettes crackle with the kind of uncomfortable energy that you only get when an unpleasant truth is well and truly pinned down.

As brilliant as these interview section may be, the rest of the film suffers for Maiwenn’s misguided attempt to crowbar an entire TV series’ worth of narrative and character development into a mere two hours. What this means is that while each of the ensemble cast receives a big emotional moment, none of these moments feel in any way connected to the film’s limited space for character building and drama. The result is a film that lurches from one hysterical outburst to the next and by the time you’ve seen your third copper break down in tears and punch a wall the film’s hysteria begins to seem comical, which is really quite unfortunate for a film about child abuse.