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Review: Polisse

I've said it before, but there are distinct differences between foreign films and the overwhelming majority of Hollywood releases these days. One of those differences is the fact that the foreign folks will tackle subjects that are largely ignored over here in the States as far as movies go. The French film Polisse shows that to be true once again. It puts a clear and unwavering eye on cases involving child protection issues.

Polisse is a police drama based on real life cases involving things such as child molestation, rape and abuse. It follows a team of Parisian police officers within the Child Protection Unit (CPU) as they try their best to make the lives of the people around them better by protecting the children of Paris from adults whose actions against them may be illegal.

Right off the bat, some of the subject matter can be a little disturbing. I haven't really seen too many movies that included child abuse and child molestation as primary topics, so naturally, I wasn't used to it. A good portion of what is being spoken about in Polisse is verbally explained in graphic detail and is something that I had a difficult time listening to at times. I can't say that I didn't expect some of this to be illustrated here, but I didn't realize they'd be so candid and blunt with the delivery.

In saying that, I don't think there was any other way of handling it. I'm sure they took the naturalized and realistic approach, because the cases are based on real-life events. This makes things more disturbing and powerful by using this style. Creating the movie this way, allows them to emphasize the importance of what's at stake and adds the element of authenticity that's present throughout the duration of the film.

When not looking at cases that are trying to save kids from adults, the audience is given a glimpse into the personal lives of the officers who handle the cases in this particular unit. Just about each of the characters has enough time to show their wide array of personalities while we're witnessing the trials and tribulations that they're dealing with in their personal lives. During this time, the audience see them as not only human, but being very flawed themselves. The actors do a fine job in showing the personal trouble that these guys have, while still coping with the stresses of a strenuous job.

I originally thought that Polisse would be about the cases and only the cases. Then while I was watching it, I saw that they were going to use the lives of the people in the unit as a significant part of the film. I had an issue with it at first, because I thought that it would only be used as filler and it wouldn't add anything to the movie. It turns out that I was wrong and that this portion of the movie became vital to the potential success of the entire story. Adding all of this makes Polisse complete and turns it into a full-fledged drama that hits from multiple angles.

Polisse is a film that features a large amount of emotion. From joy, sadness, anxiety and anger, if you can name it, that emotion is in here somewhere. Much of that had to do with seeing kids in almost every negative situation imaginable and the attempts of the Child Protection Unit that wants to help them, but it also comes from the imperfect and dysfunctional lives of everyone else involved. Actress/director/co-writer Maïwenn handles this well and is great at managing all of it while telling the story and having the ability to blend all of the drama that's included.

Polisse is a hard-hitting movie that touches on some delicate subjects and it never tries to pull any punches while doing so. As I said earlier, that's the only way it should have been handled. It shows a level of realism that would seem to be truthful when looking at the members of the team and how their lives might be altered by the profession that they chose and the choices that they make on their own time.

When it comes to the cases that are being handled by this unit, the same can be said for the most part. However, some of this stuff is simply outrageous. If this movie was complete fiction and wasn't about real cases, I would have a hard time believing that some of this stuff ever actually happened. They say that "truth is stranger than fiction" and judging by this film, that saying might actually be right.

Score: 4/5

Rating: NR

Director: Maïwenn

Karin Viard
Marina Foïs
Nicolas Duvauchelle
Karole Rocher
Emmanuelle Bercot
Frédéric Pierrot
Arnaud Henriet
Louis Do De Lencquesaing

Film Length: 127 minutes

Release Date: May 18, 2012 (Limited)

Distributor: IFC Films

Country: France

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