‘The Passengers of the Night’ Review: A Woman’s Second Act

When the Radio France billboard appears in “Night Passengers”, you know it won’t be long before the film’s most vivid character gets a job at Radio France. That’s because Elisabeth, the life force that gives coherence and meaning to this melancholy French drama, is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, one of the most distinctive, captivating and instantly recognizable voices in French cinema. be. But considering the breath-like intimacy of her instrument and the delicacy that it grazes the ear, whisper It certainly feels more accurate.

Elisabeth is confused when the story begins, so the voice takes practice. Her husband has moved out, Elisabeth is unmoored, and she is cash-strapped (and caring for a teenage son and college-aged daughter). Despite her seizures, she recovers with her tears and uneasy determination. Most of the time she does this by re-entering this world. She found her job, then found another lover, met one lover, then met a second lover. This trajectory includes acceptance even though it was rejected. It’s a compelling, paradigmatic tale of female self-discovery and empowerment, so it’s a shame that the film doesn’t prove to have a much stronger following than Gainsbourg’s.

Director Mikael Haas’s approach to Passengers is both precise and elliptical. The story unfolds over several years, beginning in Paris on May 10, 1981, and later followed by short scenes of a young woman looking at a subway map, people rejoicing in the streets, and cars crawling down the same side street. connect for the first time. The girl is a wanderer. People in cars, families. A mob of people waving red flags and handing out roses in the streets (including a boy with a big face in a car) celebrates the election of François Mitterrand, the first socialist to lead a country in decades. .

A jubilant street scene hovers in the background like a provocative question without an answer. Herz sprinkles political references throughout the film, but never draws a strong connection between these images and the main characters who seem to just pass by. Instead, he quickly shifts his focus to Elisabeth, her son Matthias (Kito Rayon-Richter), and her daughter Judith (Megan Northam), whose lives are natural at work, home, and school. becomes apparent in certain circumstances. The children are trying to find themselves, and Elisabeth, too, is slowly rebuilding her self-consciousness in her fragile parts, but the late-night radio host (Emmanuelle Beart) calls The process was made easier when she was hired to screen

Her understated realism successfully conveys the texture of family life. He captures the bristles and flatness of the isolated moments they share, capturing their faces, their moods, the emotions that lighten and darken a room. He also repeatedly draws attention to the large windows in his family’s apartment. Located on the corner of a towering building skyscraper, this apartment complex, with alternating nest and enclosure frames, is far from the city’s tourist hub, but very secluded from the underworld. It looks like But while Haas is sensitive to the minutiae of her daily life, she leaves much to her imagination, and at times it can be infuriating.

Over time; things happen. Eventually, the young woman seen in the opening scouring the map enters the radio show, slips into the life of her family, and into her arms of Matthias. She calls herself Tallulah (Noe Abita) and has issues that Elisabeth overlooks without her convincing, but for the most part it seems like the story could be complicated because of her. . Tallulah at first glance reminds Agnès of the protagonist of her Varda novel. “Vagabond” A harrowing tale about an unloved stray dog. But there is nothing more interesting about Tallulah than about her puffy pout, any more than there is anything special about Elizabeth’s two children. It’s a shame she spends so much time with these three, and never quite realizes that the only notable character here is ultimately Elizabeth–although it’s really what I’m saying. The point is Gainsbourg, a true audience whisperer.

night passengers
Unrated. French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes. at the theater.

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