Adèle Exarchopoulos’ return to Cannes following Blue Is the Warmest Colour’s Palme d’Or win might be the headline from Marianne Tardieu’s French thriller Insecure (2014), but the film itself sadly doesn’t reach the promise of what its star might attract. Exarchopoulos is, in fact, only in a handful of scenes, as we follow the life of Chérif (Reda Kateb), struggling to make good on his ambitions in working-class Brittany. He’s a security guard at a mall in the city of Rennes, hampered by his cranky boss and kids from his estate who remorselessly bully him. It’s a part-time gig until he passes his nursing exam, but trying to make ends meet whilst attempting the impossible begins to take its toll.
Chérif’s life takes a turn when he meets up with old friend Dedah (Rashid Debbouze, last seen in Philippe Faucon’s 2011 Venice offering La désintégration), a local gangster who wants nothing less than to bring his old chum into his world. It’s a premise that intrigues, partly because Kateb ably captures a character who is by no means violent, but has something unnerving bubbling away under the surface. Exarchopoulos, perhaps representing the green shoots of Chérif’s dreams coming to fruition, is charming in her turn as Jenny (playing a teacher once again just as in Blue Is the Warmest Colour), and the film could have done with much more of her in it. First-time director Tardieu manages to keep up a slippery tension throughout, and the film has a comment on immigrant communities that is charged.
Chérif is a white Arab who wants to achieve in life without cutting the corners his mates like Dedah already have, and perhaps our protagonist represents a failed integration of these communities into French society, and the routes immigrants often have to go to get by. In the end, Chérif and the kids on his estate come to an unholy alliance, as if accepting their unfortunate lots in life. It’s a pity because when things go awry, the film doesn’t quite satisfy in fulfilling its thematic premise. It’s a tad formulaic by its close which threatens to push Insecure (showing in the ACID strand at Cannes) perilously close to TV movie territory – though that label would, in the case of Tardieu’s debut, be slightly unfair.
The 67th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 14-25 May 2014. For more Cannes coverage, simply follow this link.