“Grand Central” by Rebecca Zlotowski / Cannes 2013 Review

With a photogenic couple as protagonists and a fertile environment as a backdrop, French director Rebecca Zlotowski presents a fatal attraction, which doesn’t deserve festival glory.

In her third full length feature ‘Grand Central’, which is participating in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ selection, the protagonist isn’t ‘man’, but the threat of his extinction. A massive nuclear power plant with two smoke stacks that tower over the summer landscape casting long shadows. Gary, a flippant adventurer with no legal papers, ready to do anything to make ends meet, finds work there. But from the start he comes face to face with two threats. On the hand, there’s his dangerous work, the factory itself and the radiation, the daily ‘fix’ as his co-workers call it, which is monitored on a daily basis so thoroughly, you know that sooner or later something will go wrong. On the other hand, there’s his beautiful neighbor and co-worker, an angelic temptress, ready to marry Tony, but also ready to experience a passionate love affair with Gary.

Rebecca Zlotowski has made some wise decisions here. The couple that stars, their sex appeal and chemistry, carries the film and keeps the audience’s eyes peeled. Tahar Rahim, Jacques Audiard’s ‘Prophet’, who we also saw this year at Cannes in Asghar Farhadi’s ‘The Past’, seems ever-ready to seize the day and live life to the fullest, while at the same time sharing a child-like ignorance of the dangers that surround him, which makes him endearing and gives his character passion and strength.

grand central01

Léa Seydoux, who’s last great role was in Ursula Meier’s ‘L’enfant d’en haut’ (‘Sister’), conquers her every scene with a kind of fragile willingness, an exceptional actress here portraying a nymph.

grand central02

Zlotowski directs the agony and intensity in a composed manner and the care-free nature of love generously. She manages to pull off the juxtaposition of the factory that spews poison and the surrounding blooming nature which shelters ‘the good’. However, despite its attractive cast (Olivier Gourmet and Denis Menochet in supporting roles) and her innovative screenplay, the movie feels like little more than a well made romance. There is definitely an audience for this, but the film isn’t of the high caliber one expects of a movie representing new French film-making at Cannes.

Read more of our Cannes 2013 reviews here.