La Fracture review – gilets jaunes fable breaks under weight of its metaphors

A lovelorn woman lies in a Paris hospital as violent protests rage on the streets. It’s all very symbolic … but is it any good?

The fracture of the title is, ostensibly, the nasty broken arm suffered by ditsy lead character Raf (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), a comic-book artist in Paris who slips and falls over having had a traumatic and possibly metaphorical breakup with her partner Julie (Marina Foïs). But there is another metaphor level to come.

Raf is taken to hospital which is in a state of utter chaos, with eight to 10 hours’ waiting time in A&E, because of all the people in the anti-Macron gilets jaunes demonstrations getting beaten up, gassed and shot by the police. This is the same demo that Julia’s teen son is going on, and his FaceTime phonecalls to his mum are in no way reassuring. The patients in this M*A*S*H-style warzone hospital waiting room include a truck driver, Yann (Pio Marmaï), who lives on the poverty borderline and who gets into it with the testy Raf in the scuzzy waiting room for being exactly the sort of arrogant liberal-centrist Paris elitist who supports Macron. Raf asks him if he would prefer Le Pen and the argument goes nuclear. Meanwhile, the super-stressed hospital staff are doing their very best – but maybe France itself is fractured and divided.

Trouble on the streets … La Fracture (The Divide).
Trouble on the streets … La Fracture (The Divide). Photograph: Carole Bethuel

This is a well-intentioned film with some forthright performances, although there’s a fair bit of actorly shouting going on and the smiley spaciness of Bruni-Tedeschi can sometimes feel a bit affected. In the end, it looks like a special feature-length live transmission of Holby City, and the film can never resist a bit of symbolism. The patients (and also the movie audience) jump out of their skins when out of nowhere a bit of the ceiling collapses in a shower of dust and straggly wires. “Healthcare is collapsing!” says someone.

A film like this has to stand or fall by the human relationships and the performances that are foregrounded out of the chaos. There is a nice moment when Julia recognises an old school contemporary of hers, whose daughter was brutally beaten up by the police at the demo.

Yann has some punchy lines. But the terrible inevitability of Raf and Yann becoming mates, and of Raf and Julia finally getting back together, weighs heavily on the film. Really, what is the point of it all?

• La Fracture (The Divide) screened on 9 July at the Cannes film festival.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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