Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cannes 2013: Grand Central Review

Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Writers: Gaëlle Macé,  Rebecca Zlotowski
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Léa Seydoux, Olivier Gourmet, Denis Ménochet
Synopsis: Gary (Rahim) arrives at a town looking for any work available. Due to his CV he is given a small and undesired position at a nuclear power plant. There he is exposed to radiation but also to Korale (Seydoux) who he falls in love with. The danger of working in the plant is not the only worry as Korale is the wife of a co-worker, Toni (Ménochet) whose aggression and strength could destroy both Gary and Korale.
Those cases where a great concept is paired with a secondary and lacking one are tragic in cinema and/or literature. Grand Central is one such example – a film about radiation plant workers (work-related danger to equal the tension of gems like Wages of Fear) and a love affair.The latter arc has been seen thousands of times before and, whilst allowing the film some meat to its bones, it takes far too much precedence over the power plant part, which is far more entertaining.
Rahim is a brilliant actor (with another film - Le Passé - here at Cannes) in an ensemble of similarly fantastic actors; it is a shame to see their talents go unused, for the most part. With a script that goes nowhere, peppered with only the odd moment of tension or electricity,  it all seems quite wasteful of the talent involved. Albeit, you can see the pull that got them on board – the nail-biting scenes of powerplant danger – which does attract your attention whenever the story returns to that environment.
The love affair, giving the film its story beyond the radiation angle, is a lifeless plot-point up until the end (when, even then, it’s not all that gripping). Léa Seydoux as the temptress inadvertently becomes a figure of scorn rather than sympathy when crossing between lovers. In doing this it does, however, help Rahim who earns a sympathetic representation, and plays up to it terrifically. We follow him predominantly and watching his bouts of heartbreak and radiation poisoning is great to watch because of Rahim’s flawless performance.
As the film ends few aspects resonate and you are left with the memory of a few beautiful shots, every scene from the plant (that deserves more screen time) and a particularly good score. It isn’t worth avoiding, and fans of Rahim should give it a look, but it lacks an affecting story.
Grand Central was competing in Un Certain Regard Selection at Cannes 2013. Also posted on LiveForFilms

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