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Polisse
UKScreen Rating:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Polisse follows the child protection team of the Paris police, as they investigate allegations of sexual or physical abuse and neglect.
They interrogate adults from all walks of life – some of whom feel they have the cultural right to abuse their children and others who appear to be struggling to curb unwanted desires.
There are even times when politics rears its ugly head, as police bosses urge them to go easy on child rapists in influential positions.
Then there are children put at risk by broken marriages, unstable parents and people smugglers involved in the sex-slave trade.
As the officers work hard to try to improve the lives of the children of Paris, their own personal lives come increasingly under strain.
To add to the tension, a photo-journalist (Maïwenn) is sent in to chronicle the team in action. They just want to get the job done and don’t like having the stranger in their midst.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is only the latest in a long line of highly acclaimed films that don’t stand up to true scrutiny.
It appears to be a documentary-style study of the child protection unit, but we don’t really see that much child protection going on.
We do see the police shouting angrily at a handful of suspects, but they seem to spend more time shouting at each other. And while the film alludes to some of the complexities of the field (such as estranged wives persuading their daughters to lie that their fathers are abusing them so that they’re denied custody), most of the stories aren’t followed through, so we never get to find out whether the characters we’ve been introduced to were actually guilty or simply framed – unless, of course, we see them admit to it, in which case, it’s hardly incisive detective work.
We get a glimpse into the personal lives of the officers; indeed, it’s interesting seeing the team-members having to flip between conversations about work and their home lives, which could provide us with an interesting analysis of the effect such a job can have on those who devote their time to helping struggling children. But all of them, bar none, have failed personal lives, which makes the tool feel rather blunt.
There’s certainly more drama going on in the relationships – whether at home or at work – than there is in the protection of the children, which makes what’s ostensibly the heart of the film little more than background.
And however you see the film, whether it’s about helping troubled children or the effect that this job has on those doing it, it’s the final element that jars the most; a photographer, who comes out of no-where, with a brief to photograph the team at work. She creates tension within the group, but there’s enough of that already. It’s noticeable that that she hardly ever seems to be taking pictures when the team is actually doing anything interesting – such as a raid on a gypsy camp – and when she does take photos – for example at a shooting range – she does so from behind.
This is not a photographer who’s ever sold an image, clearly.
The only discernable reason for including this character is because she’s played by the director herself; she clearly wanted to write a major role for herself and didn’t fancy playing a police officer.
She might argue that as a photographer, she’s an outsider, looking in on the world of the police child protection unit through a lens – and as a film-maker, she’s looking in on the world of the police child protection unit through a lens – a parallel so thematically immature and obvious as to be insulting to the viewer.
The performances are certainly impressive and naturalistic and the subject matter is brave – if frequently avoided – but Cannes Jury Prize or not, the story is so messy and self-important that the scatter gun approach fails.

Opens 15 June 2012

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