Between Two Worlds film review: Juliette Binoche gives a ‘career-best’ performance
Socio-realist drama about France’s gig economy
Juliette Binoche spent years trying to persuade the French investigative journalist Florence Aubenas to sell her the rights to her bestselling book Le Quai de Ouistreham. Aubenas finally acquiesced, said Charlotte O’Sullivan in the London Evening Standard, and the result is this moving film, in which Binoche stars as Marianne, a writer from Paris who takes a job as a cleaner in the town of Caen, in Normandy, in order to expose the grim realities of life for the low-paid. Along the way, she befriends a “stroppy single mum and ferry worker” (Hélène Lambert), who senses “something fishy” about the attractive new arrival in their midst. Binoche gives a “career-best, vanity-free performance”, and though the title may be “forgettable”, the film is “anything but”.
It sounds like an “incendiary Ken Loach polemic”, but it’s more of an “undercover thriller”, said Kevin Maher in The Times. The film’s tension derives from Marianne’s need to keep her true identity a secret from her new “blue-collar buddies”, who, unlike her, cannot walk away from this life. It’s “dramatically satisfying”, and Binoche is typically good, but the decision “to use the real-life exploitation of lowest-level workers” as a backdrop for “personal catharsis” left me feeling a bit “icky”.
A more valuable film might have been a documentary by Aubenas herself, “about what has and hasn’t been achieved for gig workers in France since her book came out”, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Although “earnestly intentioned”, the film is ultimately “naive and supercilious”, and strangely uninterested in its purported subject: “the injustice of exploitative employment practices”.