Grand Central review – atomically charged Tahar Rahim-Léa Seydoux romance

An erotic drama set in a nuclear power plant uses its unusual setting to irradiate Tahar Rahim and Léa Seydoux with ardour

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Rebecca Zlotowski has made a startling erotic drama set in and around a nuclear power station; its characters are irradiated with the sickness of obsessive love. Some critics have expressed reservations about melodrama and overworked symbolism, but I found it gripping, with an edge of delirium; the locations within the power station are positively Kubrickian; there's a disquieting electronic score and Tahar Rahim gives a very open, generous performance.

It is set in France – a country wholly dependent on nuclear energy for its power – and concerns a crew of itinerant workers who get well paid but dangerous work as decontamination operatives at a power station, where Silkwood-shower-type crises are commonplace. Rahim is a conscientious, likable worker, but starts falsifying his radiation-exposure records so that he can remain employed and stay close to co-worker's wife Karole (Léa Seydoux) with whom he has fallen passionately in love. Rahim is very plausible as the lovestruck guy and Seydoux is commandingly opaque as the woman who has bewitched him.

The power station itself (played by the Zwentendorf plant in Austria) is a cathedral of strangeness, a vast, pale structure that does not contaminate the beauty of the surrounding countryside but does seem to emanate something which seeps into its workers' very souls.

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Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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