Jean-Marc Matout, France, 2010, 91 mins, 2.35:1
Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Valérie Dréville, Xavier Beauvois, Yannick Renier, Laurent Delbecque, Aladin Reibel, François Chattot, Nelly Antignac, Pierre Aussedat, Ralph Amoussou
French Theatrical Release: 5 October 2011, Les Films du Losange
Review by Noel Megahey
What drives a man, working in the financial sector, to go to the office one morning and shoot dead two of his colleagues? The answer, as far as De bon matin is concerned – the film based on an actual incident – lies within the question.
Paul works for a financial company, his business is to take risks, make investments, keep the flow of money going and inevitably, particularly in the current economic climate, it’s a high pressure job that subjects Paul to considerable stress and tensions. Particularly so in Paul’s case, since although he is good at his job and has invaluable experience that is often called upon by his colleagues, he’s of the old school that believes in ethical banking. He not young and reckless enough to be involved in questionable practices, and he won’t lie to his customers to keep up the necessary level of confidence when he knows that the situation just isn’t good.
There may be other factors that lead Paul to breaking point, but Jean-Marc Matout’s film, methodically measured in its building and release of tension, keeps most of them surprisingly at a distance. We are shown something of Paul’s family life, enough to know that he an ordinary man, with outside interests in sailing, that he was involved in volunteer construction work in Mali, and that he still has close ties with people from there – but we also see that he has a difficult relationship with his teenage son that isn’t helped by a drinking problem that is developing, and that he’s been seeing a psychiatrist. All of this points to happier directions that his life could perhaps have gone in, but didn’t, and that it’s a matter of great dissatisfaction that he finds himself where he is now.
The prognosis for De bon matin then, if the opening scene alone is anything to go by, is fairly bleak. And if that’s not enough of an indication, the film has Jean-Pierre Darroussin in the role of Paul, a terrific actor, but one who is often called upon to bring his hangdog expression to downbeaten everyman characters teetering on the edge (Feux Rouges). Darroussin embodies the predicament of Paul marvellously – a boiling cauldron of tension with no outlet – but as a character study, it feels incomplete. The sense of humiliation that he is subjected to, his evident discontent with the business practices and management style of his superiors all combine to create a palpable sense of tension that gets to the heart – or even the lack of heart – of modern business and banking practices, but ultimately, Matout’s film doesn’t delve deeply into the inhuman nature of big business practices that hasn’t been done already in the films of Laurent Cantet (Time Out), previously in his own work (Violence des échanges en milieu tempéré) or, and with a great deal more originality, in Christian Petzold’s Yella.