Lesbian couple Julie and Raphaëlle are getting ready to breaking apart when the latter slips and smashes her elbow in “The Divide,” however for those who zoom out, all of France appears to be at related threat of shattering. The French title for “Replay” director Catherine Corsini’s 14th function (her first to compete at Cannes since 2001), “La fracture,” does a greater job of suggesting all of the methods the nation and her characters can’t be put again collectively once more. However neither conveys the sheer exhaustion of spending just a few hours within the emergency room of an overtaxed French public hospital.
If this had been an episode of “Gray’s Anatomy” or “ER,” we’d know all of the medical doctors, care in regards to the sufferers and really feel comparatively sure that every part would attain some semblance of order by the tip of the shift. However Corsini units out to seize the pure chaos of a particular second in time, simply earlier than COVID-19 made the hospitals actually loopy (the pandemic was already underway when she shot), and in a approach, it’s figuring out what’s about to come back that makes the unpleasantness of this storm earlier than the superstorm appear bearable. In any other case, as initially conceived, the film is perhaps an excessive amount of — 90-odd minutes of screaming and wailing, ache and self-pity — to the extent that even art-house-goers will want a morphine drip to get by means of it.
The excellent news: At this explicit hospital, remedies are free, lined by the very authorities the gilets jaunes have been protesting. The dangerous: These “yellow vest” rallies — which simmered from November 2018 till the pandemic pressured Paris into lockdown — attain a boil the identical day Raf is rushed to the ER, and as soon as the police begin in on the demonstrators with their tear gasoline and golf equipment, the place fills up quick. The result’s an entire lot of individuals shouting at one another, arguing about whose wounds are worse, whose grievances are larger and why the hell doesn’t anyone keep collectively anymore.
Listening to Julie (Marina Foïs) and Raf (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) argue, it’s simple to see that the connection has run its course. Julie has introduced plans to maneuver out, and Raf’s solely recourse is to escalate the long-running argument between them: to howl and plead for an additional likelihood whereas hurling insults the entire approach. Breakups are terrible irrespective of how they occur, however this one is especially agonizing, and Corsini sends it into extra time by saddling Raf with a disaster she will exploit for sympathy.
It takes a reasonably very long time to determine the wavelength on which this combative dynamic registers as humorous, however there’s a perverse type of humor to the way in which these two know one another’s weak spots — and one thing genuinely touching about the way in which Julie tends to her companion, although she’d simply as quickly by no means see her once more. That’s lots to handle whereas Paris melts down round them. Corsini does a formidable job re-creating the stress that existed within the streets as protesters challenged traces of police (police who, it must be stated, weren’t the goal of residents’ frustration, the way in which they had been within the States, however had been despatched in to soak up the insults being hurled on the French state).
Among the many demonstrators, a truck driver named Yann (Pio Marmaï) taunts the authorities, then takes a load of shrapnel to the leg when a tear-gas canister explodes. Thrust into the identical hospital ready room as Raf and greater than a dozen different sufferers, he’s nonetheless agitated and unwilling to quiet down, turning his frustration towards anybody who’ll hear. He and Raf belong to utterly totally different social lessons, however they’re not as totally different as they could assume — neither is the employees, practically all of whom are nonwhite (chosen from a pool of real-life medical employees, an announcement unto itself).
Hospitals function a type of uncommon areas — like prepare stations or the put up workplace — the place one can encounter individuals of virtually any background, and “The Divide” strategically treats the ER as a microcosm of French society the place disparate residents are pressured to combine … or conflict, because the case could also be. Much less tense than the patient-to-patient interactions are the varied crises demanding the employees’s consideration at any given second, and multitask as they could, it’s clear the hospital is overwhelmed — to say nothing of the system it represents.
With an eye fixed for the absurd (a weirdo who brings his canine in to have its abdomen pumped; a ceiling that spontaneously collapses, very practically re-injuring a person in a wheelchair), Corsini and co-writers Agnès Feuvre and Laurette Polmanss write every scene with such authenticity, we scarcely notice how strategically some have been launched to arrange dramatic moments in a while. Because the police collect exterior the doorways and hospital administration is pressured to take sides, a nurse named Kim (Aïssatou Diallo Sagna, a nonprofessional actor however an expert well being care employee) emerges as a favourite character — a supply of infinite endurance and empathy, irrespective of how disrespectful the sufferers are towards her (one even takes her hostage in an particularly tense scene).
The characters will be so grating, watching “The Divide” seems like sticking your head within the rubbish disposal. However as unwieldy because the multi-tentacled narrative will be — simply consider the logistics required to stage it! — the expertise provides as much as one thing unshakeable. You won’t care whether or not Julie and Raf keep collectively, or whether or not Yann will get his truck again to Nîmes in time. Heck, you would possibly even marvel why, in the event that they shoot horses after they break a leg, nobody places these characters out of our distress. However after it’s over and also you’ve had time to soak up every part, it’s such as you truly spent an evening in that ER your self, with the scars to show it.