Between Two Worlds Review – Candid, Unpretentious, Genuine

Between Two Worlds, from Cohen Media Group, presents the story of an investigative writer who seeks to expose the exploitation of the working class in Northern France and go undercover landing a job as a cleaning lady.

The film begins with Marianne Winckler, played by Juliette Binoche, attempting to find a job, at the French equivalent of an unemployment and social services agency. The room is filled with men and women, mothers with children, all looking for work. A woman comes in, Chrystele, played by Helene Lambert, and begins to scream in frustration at the office worker. The audience is empathetic to her understandable frustration. We find the system operates in triplicate, is emotionless, and without empathy everywhere.

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During the first 20 or so minutes of the film Marianne is still very much the cleaning lady, she is without a car, lives in a one room half-studio, and carries a burner phone. It appears as if she is as destitute as she presents herself to be. Small changes begin at that point, we see her taking notes, even while on the job, which for someone with experience, we understand, she is not suited for the work.

We also see the marginalization in which she and other members of the cleaning staff are treated. As in most systems, in order to receive benefits the workers are required to take classes, Marianne is also required to take classes where she is taught how to operate a floor waxer. This is when Chrystele, from the opening scenes arrives back into the film. Soon, Marianne and Chrystele become friends.

They each have cleaning jobs and all the demeaning behavior and dehumanizing treatment one can envision is shown. The supervisor walks across a freshly mopped floor with muddy boots leaving a muddy dirt track; and of course, the general filthiness that is common in hotels, and restrooms when the responsibility to clean belongs to someone else.

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By this time, we are seeing more of what Marianne is doing, and understand she can escape this life at any time. She returns to the unemployment/social services agency where she is recognized, which is the first time the audience understands she is someone who in certain circles would be recognized, and she explains the story: She is an undercover author, from Paris, writing a book about the unemployment situation and the exploitation of workers.

She secures the cooperation of the social worker and Chrystele helps her secure a job on the cross-channel ferry, that leaves each night traveling from France to England.

Once we understand Marianne can leave the life she is inhabiting, at any time, her actions become more challenging to accept as legitimate. She builds relationships with the other women, knowing she will ultimately humiliate them and as there are young children involved who are invested in having another caring adult around, to pull the rug out from under them is cruel.

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Even as she seems to wrestle with her deception and tries to rationalize that it's for the greater good, she is really only exploiting them, riding their hardship, struggles, limited resources and options to the ATM.

This sets up the finale which, by a twist in fate, Marianne, Chrystele, and Marilou, played by Lea Carne, are stuck on the ferry crossing the English Channel and Marianne is recognized.

Between Two Worlds is authentic, genuine, and incredibly convincing. The talent delivered realistic portrayals. The story was very believable, and without doubt true of the exploitation of the vulnerable around the world, in the United States, France, England and every country.

A candid, unpretentious, and honest film about bureaucracy, workers conditions, and the attempts to carve out a little piece of happiness in the system that stacks the deck and holds all the aces.

Between Two Worlds is playing in select cities. Check your local listings.

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Country: France.

Language: French with English Subtitles.

Runtime: 106 minutes.

Director: Emmanuel Carrère.

Producer: Emmanuel Carrere, Olivier Delbosc, Julien Deris, David Gauquie.

Writer: Emmanuel Carrere, Helene Devynck, adapted from "The Night Cleaner" by Florence Aubenas.

Cast: Juliette Binoche, Hélène Lambert, Léa Carne, Emily Madeleine, Patricia Prieur, Evelyne Porée, Didier Pupin.

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