Directed by: Maïwenn
127 minutes

New England Premiere

French/Italian/Romanian/Arabic with English subtitles

Director, writer, and star Maïwenn (THE ACTRESS’ BALL) has crafted an unbelievably human film in POLISSE. Winner of the Prix du Jury at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, this documentary-style feature follows a Parisian police department’s child-protection unit as they work—and live—under the extreme emotional duress that comes with the job. The film is full of kinetic energy and raw human emotion, playing like an entire season of The Wire packed into one viewing experience. We follow a slew of officers, bouncing back and forth from on-the-job stresses to personal relationships burdened with dramatics. Each interrogation is more draining than the last, each argument more furious.

It’s in the portrayal of this daily grind, both at home and in the station house, where the film excels. We are with these officers as they interrogate abusive parents, arrest pedophiles, and gently interview troubled children—and then at home as they deal with even more anxiety in their personal lives. A certain amount of levity is necessary when facing the worst of humanity, and Ma├»wenn’s ability to insert humor into unimaginably stressful situations gives the film a heartbeat that is loud and clear.

Maïwenn plays a photojournalist assigned to the unit as an observer. Like the audience, she becomes immediately engulfed in the turmoil of life in the CPU. The characters in this stunning film take such care of the children they are sworn to protect that they lose the ability to take care of themselves. They must rely on one another for comfort, friendship, and love.

—Mark Anastasio