Monday 11 December 2017

Absorbing and intense French police dramaHarrowing: Paris police track child abusers

Paul Whitington

polisse

(16, limited release, 128 minutes)

Director: Maiwenn Stars: Karin Viard, Marina Fois, Maiwenn, Emmaneulle Bercot, Nicolas Duvauchelle

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French filmmaker and actress Maiwenn's hard-hitting crime feature won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year and subsequently earned 13 César nominations. But while undeniably absorbing, Polisse feels more like a TV cop show condensed into two hours than a standalone movie.

It pulls no punches when dealing with the grim work of the BPM, a harried and fractious Paris-based child protection unit.

The BPM deal with cases of paedophilia and child abuse, many involving immigrants, but some implicating the wealthy and privileged. Maiwenn herself plays a photographer who follows the group for a project and witnesses at first hand the damage their work does to them.

The film flits between a series of distressing sex abuse cases and the internal strife within the unit, whose attempts to get justice for children are sometimes thwarted by their politically ambitious boss.

Rapper Didier Morville plays Fred, an impassioned detective whose dedication to his work has destroyed his marriage, and Marina Fois and Karin Viard are fractious colleagues heading towards a tragic falling out. The film honestly explores the horror of cruelty to children, and the chilling ways child molesters justify their actions.

There's humour too, and in one unsettling scene the group cracks up while listening to the testimony of a 14-year-old girl who performed fellatio for several boys in order to get her smartphone back.

Polisse is full of such intense, effective moments, but Maiwenn does not succeed in marrying the threads of the various stories, and some of the film's key moments seem histrionic and overacted rather than genuinely moving.

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