By: Hess Sahlollbey
From our first introduction to the central character of “The Measure of a Man” it is evident that things are not going well and don’t look to be getting better any time soon.
It’s easy to compare main character Thierry, a middle-aged man, long out of work and short on prospects to another contemporary character, Walter White. Both characters embodied the 21st- century labourer whose lives are riddled with hardship, insecurity and under-employment.
The comparisons end there as Walter White however had a particular skill set and a questionable morality that allowed him to escape the confines of his socio-economic situation. Thierry, who is equally stubborn, on edge and volatile, is unfortunately not as lucky.
Thierry Taugourdeau, played by Vincent Lindon, has just found out that the construction course he spent several months completing has no job prospects. Thierry’s embarrassment, outrage and turmoil effectively set the mood for this French drama.
Having been a part of some 700 factory workers that were abruptly laid off, Thierry is running out of resources. A meager 500 euro a month is his unemployment and it is far from enough to provide for his wife and his son with special needs. What follow are a series of scenes ranging from depressing, comedic and even cringe inducing as Thierry struggles to find work.
Vincent Lindon’s delivery of his lines makes it easy for anyone who’s ever struggled in their job hunt to relate. Whether its pointless CV revamping sessions with so called “career professionals” or Skype interviews that never workout- Thierry experiences it all.
The second act begins with a time jump forward. It is revealed that Thierry finally does land a job as the head of security in a Walmart-esque department store. A bitter-sweet victory after a long series of bleakness.
However, Thierry’s problems haven’t disappeared, they’ve only been shifted. While it may not be an ideal job for Thierry, you can sense his satisfaction at busting hoodlums that shoplift. That satisfaction however is fleeting as this new job gets further complicated when Thierry is tasked with busting his fellow workers for any infractions that they commit. Thierry finds himself in multiple moral dilemmas in the backroom of the store where Thierry is forced to come to terms with how much he can face in these horrible interrogations.
Director Stéphane Brizé utilizes a handheld camera style of directing that allows the viewer to intimately enter the world of the working-class in France. This shaky style of filming also creates a transparency that makes the viewer feel uneasy and like a voyeur to all Thierry’s intimate insecurities and shortcomings.
On screen for almost every single minute of the film, “The Measure of a Man” serves as a stellar introduction to Vincent Lindon and his acting skills. So mesmerizing is his presence- it should come as no surprise that Mr. Lindon won not just the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival but a César national French film award as well.
The French title of the film La Loi du March (The law of the market) evokes how harsh the job market has become world-wide for those who skills do not meet what is demanded. The English translation, “The Measure of a Man” however reflects a questioning of the role that a man is supposed to play. Thierry clearly wants to provide for his family but is instead defined by a menial position to make ends meet.
A subtle character study of a man’s agonies, “The Measure of a Man” is fascinating in its ability to be both captivating and emotionally difficult to watch.