In Stéphane Brizé‘s The Measure of a Man, Vincent Lindon “plays Thierry, an unemployed husband and father struggling to find a new career after being laid off from his longtime factory job,” writes Mike D’Angelo, dispatching to the Dissolve. And he’s not the only one to note that La loi du marché, literally, The Law of the Market, could well serve as a companion piece to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne‘s Two Days, One Night. “Brizé (Mademoiselle Chambon) spends the first half of the film detailing just how screwed Thierry is, with each scene constituting a protracted argument that goes in maddening circles. Then, abruptly, in a single nondescript cut, Thierry has a job, working as a security guard for a huge department store. From this point forward, Lindon’s performance is nearly silent, yet still deeply expressive, as Thierry spends his days monitoring video cameras, detaining shoplifters, and looking more and more uneasy with his new position representing The Man.”
Barbara Scharres for RogerEbert.com: “A senior citizen pockets a package of meat and can’t pay; a minimum wage cashier swipes her own loyalty card for customer purchases in order to accumulate points. Another lifts discount coupons for her personal use. The faces of those apprehended speak volumes on the rawness of sorrows that can’t be told or defended. As Thierry stands at last on the power-wielding side of the work equation, Brizé brings the film’s only moral choice home with devastating accuracy.”
Variety‘s Scott Foundas: “Brizé, who has always positioned himself as a simple human storyteller in the Jean Renoir mold, has never made a film quite as overtly political as this one, or as formally rigorous, shooting mostly in long, unbroken takes (the d.p. is Eric Dumont) that force us to share in Thierry’s struggle moment by agonizing moment… Taking a page from the Dardennes, Brize has also surrounded Lindon with an entire cast of non-professional performers playing lightly dramatized versions of themselves—a strategy that, to its great credit, will go unnoticed by most viewers, the venerable French leading man blending effortlessly into his surroundings. It helps, of course, that Lindon… excels at playing working-class everymen, and characters who, whatever else may befall them, never surrender their elemental decency.”
“He’s an actor who can do more with a glance than with several pages of dialogue, and his hardened physique gives him an intensity filled with deep sadness,” adds Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter. More from Fabien Lemercier, who also interviews Brizé for Cineuropa.
Updates, 5/20: “Very quietly, the film damns a system that throws workers overboard and either dangles a lifeboat just out of reach or changes the definition of drowning,” writes Grantland‘s Wesley Morris. “Lindon takes in every atom of every situation, every pointer, every negative word, considering what’s of value, discarding what’s not. This is one of the most sensitively shaded depictions of listening I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch.”
“Brizé deploys a deftly observational low-key realism to chart Thierry’s progress from disenchantment and near-despair to relief and then something else entirely,” writes Geoff Andrew for Time Out. “Little is stated explicitly and little out of the ordinary happens.” Measure “is at once compassionate, engrossing from start to finish, and utterly relevant.
“Thierry’s crushing ordinariness is key to Brizé’s objective, which is to enlarge our sense of the everyday struggles around us,” writes Tim Grierson for Paste.
“The grim conclusions about the chilly inflexibility of the market are… impossible to ignore,” writes Donald Clarke in the Irish Times. “It is to the credit of all concerned that the film never seems didactic.”
Update, 5/26: Kino Lorber has picked up US rights, reports Anne Thompson.