Thierry has a happy family life with his wife Katherine (Karine de Mirbeck) and teenage son Mathieu (Matthieu Schaller). His son has a development disability but is bright and funny and wants to go off to college. Thierry goes to dance class with his wife. He doesn't have an alcohol problem, or a gambling problem, he isn't depressed or suicidal, doesn't turn to a life of crime, or have an affair. Rather he tries to sell the caravan to make up the short fall, but after a long scene of bargaining decides not to when he feels the price is too low. This is a man with his head screwed on and the film never contrives to put him in a spiral of bad luck. His car breaks down so he pops to the bank, organises a lone with the sympathetic bank manager and buys another one. Having finally landed a job as a store detective in a large supermarket, Thierry is conscientious and eager to learn. He doesn't abuse his power and he increasingly feels uncomfortable as the thieves are revealed to mostly be people like him, struggling to get by in a world which is increasingly stacked against them. The store cameras search out people and watch them unpityingly in their evasions and petty thefts. An extra layer of dehumanising surveillance is applied to the actual employees - the manager is looking to fire some people, so Thierry is tasked to keep a particular eye on the cashiers.
Brizé's film is obviously grounded in the social realism cinema of the Dardennes and our own Ken Loach. Eschewing any melodrama, The Measure of a Man is itself measured, almost puritanically restrained and anti-dramatic. Conversation entire are recorded and non-professional actors complement Lindon's own naturalism - for contrast see him in Claire Denis' Bastards (2013), which showed in Cannes a couple of years ago. Brizé allows scenes to play out in full: a Skype job interview and a job centre training session are drawn out as Thierry must undergo the indignity of being criticised for everything from the presentation of his CV to his posture and way of speaking - "limp" comments a fellow job seeker. Some of these scenes could have been helpfully shortened and there is almost a masochism in allowing them to unfold at a real time pace. However, The Measure of a Man is solid social document that offers insight into quiet lives lived by those who don't give in - despite every good reason - to desperation.
The 68th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 13-24 May 2015. For more Cannes coverage, simply follow this link.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty