Juliette Binoche gets her hands dirty in French drama Between two worlds (Ouistreham), the premiere of Emmanuel Carrère’s Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. Adapted from the Florence Aubenas bestseller Le Quai De Ouistreham, focuses on Marianne Winckler, an author who goes undercover as a cleaner to write a book about her experiences.
Posing as a cash-strapped divorcee in need of work in the city of Caen, she is sent from the job center to cleaning school, where she learns enough to be hired at Outistreham Port. And so this wealthy journalist rolls up her sleeves and scrubs the ferry toilets, forming a close bond with her co-workers while secretly taking notes on them. The stage is set for a tense reveal, but the main focus of Between two worlds it’s about friendship, character, and socio-political commentary.
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With an inquisitive and identifiable note, Binoche is ideal for the lead role. So she is, in a way, an actress who plays an actor. Marianne seems uncomfortable with the deception as she answers questions about her life from her co-workers, sticks to a script, and is as evasive as possible. But there is also a journalistic glint in his eye when he spies on a story. And then there’s his compassionate side – he forms a genuine connection with women and positively squirms with middle-class guilt, something many audiences will share when seeing this. The script strives to educate the privileged about those who can barely afford to feed their children and who walk hours to complete a single shift in a thankless concert economy. And these are French citizens: the situation of immigrants is much more difficult, as some specific lines of dialogue remind us. It’s pedagogical but effective, much like the work of Cannes favorite Ken Loach.
But the tone is more optimistic than that of Sorry we miss you, thanks to the vivid supporting characters played by street novices. Christèle (Hélène Lambert) is a formidable single mother and a stratified character: she is outspoken, generous and witty, as well as distrustful and mistrustful of the world.
Two memorable smaller roles are filled with real characters from the book: Amazon Justine and Boss Nadège (Evelyne Borée), whose party trick involves posing as an expressionless statue while her co-workers try to provoke her. This comic moment wouldn’t look out of place in The office: an American workplace. And it’s these observational details that really bring the movie to life, presumably the same ones that helped make Aubenas’s book a success.
As a French film partner Childhood, this finds contagious joy in the bonds between its working-class characters, even if one of them is an imposter. Between two worlds hits all the beats of an auteur crowd for audiences who, like Marianne, can return to their cozy homes with a renewed appreciation for the people who clean up after them.