A haphazardly compiled portfolio containing crude, unfocused snapshots of a Child Protection Unit in Paris.
Polisse is a haphazardly compiled portfolio containing crude, unfocused snapshots of life behind-the-scenes at a Child Protection Unit in Paris, witnessed by an over-friendly photojournalist as played by Maïwenn le Besco, the film’s writer and director.
Recalling a knowing throwback to the terse TV-cop dramas of the '70s and 80's (Hill Street Blues, for instance) rather than the slick and smug likes of Crime Scene Investigation and its schedule-sapping ilk, the film’s unlovely, docu-realist veneer lends the drama an appealing immediacy which allows for swift immersion into the team’s thankless toil.
With no single central character, Maïwenn flits and hops between cases, busts, relationships and quarrels, the sum total of which aims to document both the horrendous tasks these officers must deal with as well as their general ineptness at carrying them out. Filmed on coarse DV reminiscent of the early Dogme 95 movies, this scuzzy aesthetic dovetails nicely with the film’s fresco approach to narrative and its array of impressive, naturalistic performances.
Even though many of the anecdotes within the film are based on real cases, it does, however, become less credible the more we get to know the characters. Shocking as they may initially seem, scenes such as one in which a young girl admits to being cajoled into dispensing blowjobs in order to retrieve her smartphone, inciting bellows of laughter from the jaded officers, simply feel manipulative and carelessly dramatised.
Elsewhere, a bourgeois father accused of abusing his daughter exudes a wily confidence in front of the officers and swiftly receives a slap. Would these trained professionals really be so quick to violence?
There’s facile emphasis placed on the irony that the very people whose occupation it is to safeguard abused children aren’t able to bring up their own. Marina Foïs’ Iris fritters away her marriage as a result of her timetabled sex sessions, unerotically scheduled during periods of prime fertility. Karin Viard’s Nadine loses custody of her children early in the film. Two officers even give up their kids to pursue a love affair.
You might also be advised to walk out of the cinema five minutes before the film ends in order to spare yourself one of the most vulgar and idiotic final shots in a long, long, long time.
A box office smash in France and a prizewinner in Cannes, despite tepid early reviews.
You’ve got to give it to Maïwenn – she can fashion a gritty romp.
Even though it crumbles under any close scrutiny, you feel there would be scope for a less hysterical sequel.