One of the finest character actors working in cinema today, Vincent Lindon's everyman shtick doesn't look in danger of losing its power.
Whether it’s the lonely divorcée sheltering an asylum seeker (Bienvenue), a husband planning to break his wife out of prison (thriller Pour Elle was remade into The Next Three Days), or a desperate man seeking out the truth behind his brother-in-law's suicide (Les Salauds), Lindon's talent is disappearing into the role, making one forget about the actor and be totally engrossed in the character. The Measure of a Man is Lindon at his very best.
Lindon plays Thierry, a man in his fifties and who has been unemployed for over a year. Unable to drum up the requisite fire to join his ex-colleagues in suing his former employers, frustrated at the endless cycle of courses that don't further his chances of employment, his unemployment benefit cut right back, and college fees on the horizon, Thierry and his wife (de Mirbeck) look to other ways to trim back on spending…
One for that clever-clever student in a screenwriting class, The Measure of a Man is a study of a character but, contrary to screenwriting principles, one that doesn't change, grow, learn. Life is a struggle with no answers or act breaks; you take your happy moments where you can get them (a joke with his son over dinner, a dancing lesson with his wife). We follow Thierry as he jumps through the hoops of the system and the humiliation of the job-seeking process: In an interview over Skype he is asked to work flexible hours for less pay (the interviewer also reprimands him for his unprofessional CV) only to be told that his chances of getting the job are very slim. Grrr.
Yet he never loses it. He doesn't toss his computer out the window. He never whinges or moans, never turns Yosser Hughes. But he has pride and he has a line: he won't let a prospective buyer of his mobile home filch a few more hundred euros off their agreed price and fundamentally refuses the bank manager’s suggestion he sell the apartment.
Coupled with Lindon’s naturalness, Brizé’s fly-on-the-wall handheld style ensures complete involvement with Thierry's sympathetic plight, as if one is eavesdropping on these intimate and humbling scenarios. However, and this is for the clever-clever lecturer's rebuttal in that screenwriting class, when Thierry secures a job as a security guard in a department store the story plateaus.
The misery piled on Thierry up until that point switches to those he catches stealing (the old man with meat in his pocket, the middle-aged checkout woman sneaking coupons). Brizé doesn't turn the camera on Lindon in these scenes, shooting over his shoulder as the culprits plead their case, turning him, in essence, into a facsimile of the management responsible for his own current financial situation.
Not a cheery one but it does showcase the steely resolve and the dogged determination of the human spirit to keep punching despite everything. There's strength and comfort in that.