Life is sisyphean in Stéphane Brizé’s The Measure of a Man. The story centers on a middle-aged unemployed factory worker (Vincent Lindon), with a wife and disabled son, who tries stave off financial ruin by going through the system, doing job training and interviewing with firms. If this sounds mundane, it’s because it is. Brizé’s style is realistic, the result looks like a sociological case study, or a docudrama, with few cuts, shot in tight close-ups (profiles, behind-the-back shots). For example, although there is plenty of him in the movie, we rarely get a good look at the son with cerebral palsy; we don’t see him the way we see Gilbert Grape. Yet, this is for the better, because it prevents him from being a cliché, a device to milk sympathy. The Measure of a Man has no score—no “emotion lotion”—but the sadness is pervasive nonetheless. It’s not all miserabilism, however: When the factory worker and his wife attend a dance class, we get some laughs, as well as when he bargains with a buyer trying to lowball him. Some of the scenes run on too long; maybe they’re meant to. That’s how life is, sometimes. Effective and informative as The Measure of a Man is, it’s also a bit boring and draining, so, if you’re going to the movies for an escape, we’d suggest you make other plans.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White