Film review: Polisse

Director: Maïwenn
Cast: Karin Viard, Joeystarr, Marina Foïs, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Maïwenn, Karole Rocher, Emmanuelle Bercot, Frédéric Pierrot, Arnaud Henriet, Naidra Ayadi, Jérémie Elkaïm, Riccardo Scamarcio
Rating: (R16)
5 stars (out of 5)

Moved by a documentary about the French Child Protection Unit (CPU), director-actress Maïwenn sought access to the police officers to script a film based on their work. Casting herself in the role of Mélissa, a photographer drafted to create a photo essay on the CPU, Maïwenn has created a film so real it is impossible to look away as one train wreck after the other careers across the screen.

From an opening where images and sequences are slapped together at a dizzying pace, it's obvious that the film-making team is so confident in their narrative that they cavalierly demand that their audience hang in for the ride. Fortunately, the pace does level out, but the dynamic method of jumping between characters, locations and personal dramas helps reflect the chaos the CPU experience daily.

The police unit is like one big family. Often unable to release the pressure accumulated after a shift dealing with society's most unsavoury characters, the officers eat together, drink together and fall into the arms of each other. What pulls the whole thing together is phenomenal acting. Working loosely from a structured script that was a first for Maïwenn, the actors ended up improvising many of the scenes based on an intensive pre-shoot workshop with former members of the CPU. Polisse is such a masterstroke of immersive cinema that it is near on impossible to tear your eyes from the screen. Best thing: The camera work: it's incredibly revealing but somehow unobtrusive.

Worst thing: The false endings.

See it with: A fastened seatbelt and a stiff drink.

- Mark Orton