Catherine Corsini’s film captures perfectly the chaos of an A&E Department in the aftermath of a “Yellow Vest” demonstration in central Paris. Perhaps too perfectly, as the overloaded hospital, packed with people waiting to be treated by the harassed and overworked staff gives the viewer a sensory overload too. As a result, some important points Corsini wants to make are in danger of being lost in the noise and general chaos.
Julie (Marina Fois) and Raf (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) a couple on the verge of a break up, find themselves here when Raf slips in the street, bangs her head and fractures an elbow. They are joined, along with dozens of others, by truck driver Yann (Pio Marmai) a demonstrator who suffers a bad leg injury when a tear gas grenade explodes.
Raf takes a break from arguing and pleading with Julie to arguing with Yann – being of different social classes, they would appear to make natural opponents. I have to say at this point that Tedeschi’s tendency to perform with the dial constantly all the way up to 11 and turn her character into the most irritating one you’ll see on screen this year makes it almost impossible to sympathise with her. Little wonder Julie has had enough.
The interaction between patients, though, is in its own way just more background noise, just one more problem for the staff, led by head nurse Kim (an outstanding performance from Aissatou Diallo Sagna whom I’m told is not an actor, but a health professional in real life). Understaffed, lacking the basic necessities in both medicines and equipment and subject to the constant barrage of pleas and demands from the injured, they work till they drop to do the best they can for those who flood through the doors of the hospital.
I do not know how accurately this film depicts the situation in the French health service, but it certainly paints a convincing portrait – enough for me to believe that this is not too far removed from being a dramatised documentary. It is a chaotic film about a chaotic situation, and at times it is hard to like. But then, it is not here to be liked, it is here to shake you, and to tell you how things are. In today’s world, where the crowd to listen to reassuring lies is always much bigger than the crowd who seek unpalatable truths, I suggest we should join that smaller crowd and listen to Corsini’s truth.