Ever wanted to know what it is really like to be in the police force? Would you be complicit in deporting a genuine refugee? How do you handle the fate of someone’s life?
Unlike the majority of films that feature members of the police, this film is not about solving a murder, catching a criminal or rescuing hostages. There is no shooting, minimal fighting, and little action in this slow-paced film; it is riveting in an entirely different way.
Superbly directed by Anne Fontaine, Night Shift is a film about the moral dilemmas the police make in their professional roles. To demonstrate their need for constant detachment, the movie starts with two police duty call outs, both domestic violence situations. One, to collect a woman’s belongings from her abusive husband, another to rescue a son from his abusive mother.
The emotional burdens placed upon them in these (for want of a better word) more mundane tasks is presented in the film by shooting the same scene three times, each time in the mindset of a different character, each time with different focal points. There is also reference to their home lives prior to their mission.
In this way the three main characters’ lives and their psychological states are established, with little dialogue required. Music plays a key part in expressing feelings without words, as does the focal point of each scene. The four characters of the film are all incredibly talented in expressing their inner thoughts nonverbally.
Different actors and a different director would have made this film boring. Fortunately, Night Shift is far from it and completely enthralling. In the role of Aristide is Cesar Award for Best Actor (The Intouchables) Omar Sy. Aristide is the cool, calm and collected cop who lives alone.
Then there is multi-award-winning actor Payman Maadi as refugee Tohirov, and Erik (Gregory Gadebois), the cop who is unhappily married and struggling with addictions. Although all performances are strong, Virginie Efira as Virginie is particularly notable. She is the one that has to convince her colleagues to break the rules in the film, and this makes her equally convincing to us as the audience.
What makes this film particularly captivating is the central theme which is the interplay of professional ethics and morality. Although about a refugee being deported, it is not political, and although about the police force, it is not about a crime. The film transports you to the surreal state of the officers and refugee in this situation, and leaves you feel hazy yet thoughtful.
Night Shift is currently showing as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.
Click here for screening times.