In Stéphane Brizé’s powerful “The Measure of a Man,” Vincent Lindon plays Thierry, a laid-off, 50-something factory worker scrounging for employment. We witness his humiliating job interviews – one in particular, with a callous recruiter via Skype, makes the skin crawl. He finally finds work as a security guard at a big-box supermarket, where he has to collar shoplifters who are mostly in the same dire economic straits he only recently escaped.
With the exception of Lindon (a Cannes Best Actor), Brizé fills out the cast mostly with nonactors, filming many of the scenes, especially in the supermarket, in a semidocumentary style that carries the sharp tang of real experience. It’s a movie about the economically dispossessed and their quiet (and not-so-quiet) desperation. Lindon expresses the turmoil of a strong man forced to subsume his pride for a paycheck. Away from the job, with his caring wife and disabled son whom he adores, Thierry can be himself. There’s a wonderfully funny scene in which he attends a dance class with his wife and, to Thierry’s annoyance, the instructor cuts in on the marital frolics.
Without such moments, or the scene in which Thierry angrily turns down a low-ball offer from a couple to buy his mobile vacation home, he might seem too closed off to us. But it’s Lindon’s achievement that, even when Thierry is at his most impassive, we always know what is going on inside his head. On the job, he may seem blank, but he’s torn in two. Grade: B+ (This film is not rated.)