Night Shift looks at the inner lives of three police officers who take the night shift together. The film screens at Cinemania across Canada on Nov 22. Tickets are available here.
Even Anne Fontaine’s most uneven films tend to be worth watching because they offer an often unexplored female perspective. As preposterous as the premise of Adore was — two middle-aged women (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) strike up affairs with each other’s teenaged sons — it was smart about women’s sexuality in a way that’s rarely explored on screen. On the other side of the spectrum, Fontaine’s excellent The Innocents was the story of pregnant nuns during World War II, the victims of mass rape — once again, looking at the secrets women must keep, and here, the abuses they face.
Night Shift (or Police in French) starts out promisingly in the same vein, as it tells the story of the same day from the perspectives of three different police officers: exhausted new mother Virginie (Virginie Efira, always absolutely excellent), her lover Aristide (Omar Sy), and the middle-aged alcoholic Erik (Grégory Gadebois). Although each of them spend the day in part in each other’s company, the slight shift in the camera’s perspective as we see each of them leave home and then go through the day, smartly shows how different their experiences are. Virginie is constantly trying to ignore misogynistic microaggressions; Aristide comes off as a bro, but is actually quite sensitive and dealing with trauma; Erik is caught between his unhappy home life, an obsession with his reputation, and the desire to do good.
In Night Shift, Fontaine is particularly sensitive to female experiences — both as a cop and as the people the cops are there to help. Virginie begins the day by visiting the doctor about an abortion, and is constantly worried about this, and having to deal with administrative duties to get this done. Virginie and Erik accompany an abused woman to get her things, to protect her from her husband, only for the woman to throw them out when they get rough with her violent husband. Erik and Aristide, meanwhile, are called to the house of a woman who has accidentally killed her child. As police officers, they all feel a little helpless to actually do good, and Fontaine makes us aware of how difficult it can be to address problems women face.
These three perspectives converge on the night shift when the cops are all charged with escorting someone scheduled for deportation (Payman Maadi) to the airport. When Virginie realises they are essentially escorting the man to his death, she decides to try to save him, enlisting the other two in her quest. Here, the plot begins to strain believability, with these police officers going to ridiculous lengths to help the traumatized man. The further we get into it, the more ridiculous it gets. But Efira’s committed performance carries Night Shift. Virginie and Aristide have flashbacks to their courtship which led to Virginie’s current pregnancy (she’s unhappy with her husband), and thee way they converse through looks, while chaperoned by Erik, is always compelling.
Night Shift is available to stream across Canada for 48 hours starting November 22. Tickets are available here.
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