Polisse, (the name being a childish version of the word ‘Police’) is not for the faint-hearted. Documentary-style Polisse tugs at the heartstrings and slaps us in the face with the harsh reality of life in the Juvenile Protection Unit of the Police Department in Paris.
Melissa (Maïwenn herself), a journalist who arrives to investigate the Juvenile Protection Unit falls for Fred (played by Joey Starr) – a sensitive yet quick-to-temper character, who already has a wife and daughter. Although this may seem like one of the simplest ‘forbidden’ love stories of all time, it is complicated by the interweaving relationships between the various members of staff. The stresses of their jobs affecting their relationships with both friends and partners.
The great thing about this film is that it’s jam-packed with emotion – believable emotion towards child-abuse. This, teamed with documentary-style footage, keeps a ‘realistic’ element to the whole film. For me, documentary is a very effective way of conveying drama in a workplace. For example, look at Entre les Murs (otherwise known as The Class); the documentary style keeps it from looking too clean and too perfect, it enables us to connect with the cast and understand the situations that they find themselves in.
Although I can highly commend this film for not holding back on the details, I would not recommend it to everyone. For those of you who find scenes of child abuse or scenes of talking about child abuse disturbing, this film is not for you. Similarly, those who can’t deal the idea of abortion, you might want to skip one of the scenes. It has to be said, that this scene definitely made me shed a tear. It manages to be halfway between tender and clinical. The young girl who whispers “sorry” to her child, reflects on the sad necessity of abortion that is so debated today. The fact that the baby can be used as evidence against the young girl’s rapist is also a point worth making: it doesn’t ‘protect’ the audience, the way a more ‘classic’ film might do and it shocks you. You are seeing what the characters see everyday.
Not only is there a vast array of characters in the Juvenile Protection Unit, but there is also an array of characters among the victims and abusers alike. We see those who are greasy slimeballs, to those who don’t understand what has happened, to those who ‘just can’t help themselves’. You do not warm to all the police force – in fact you may find yourself siding with Iris (Marina Foïs) or Nadine (Karin Viard).
Polisse is definitely worth a watch: it tackles modern issue which are much in debate today. For example, we witness Nora (played by Naidra Ayadi) tackling sexism in Islam and Fred undergoing the procedure of bathing his daughter, telling her that ‘daddies don’t go in the bath with daughters’. Polisse doesn’t just deal with the drama in the victim’s world as well, it’s necessary to understand that it deals with the victims in the police force – those who cannot deal with stress, those who lose the case for being too emotionally involved.
Overall, Polisse is a little long and has a slightly bizarre ending but is well-constructed and elegantly done in terms of handling such delicate situations: it does not bombard you with sick images, nor does it drown you in morals. It hands situations to the audience and they can decide how they feel about them. Some may complain that it can come across boring or confusing in parts, which I would agree with. The ending left me racking my brains for what could have led to that outcome. For me, it almost felt as if the writers needed a definite ending and this was the way to go.
frotter – to rub
tromper qqn – to cheat on somebody
un fugueur, une fugueuse – a runaway (from home)
les vergetures – stretchmarks
un foyer – a home