The Measure of a Man
Directed by Stéphane Brizé
Released April 15, 2016
The struggle to find work is a universal pain. Tumbling economies and failing businesses do not exist in just one language, and there is often little that can prepare people for an entirely new worldview based on the lack of stability of a job. How society treats those people and deals with the situation is dependent largely on the culture, but there is a fair degree of consistency across the board to how those who have been laid off and cannot find work are viewed. In “The Measure of a Man,” Thierry (Vincent London), a factory worker struggling to find new employment, has to contend with considerable obstacles in order to maintain his livelihood and provide for his family.
“The Measure of a Man” begins with Thierry discussing the absurdity of his having to take a course that was supposed to qualify him for a job only to learn that it did not include crucial components that are now deemed necessary to attain such a position. It is clear that Thierry has worked with the same kind of equipment and machinery all his life, yet his being out of work has led to the circular problem of not being familiar with the latest models, since the only way to get a job working with them is to have had the hands-on experience using them. Thierry shies away from a class-action lawsuit against the employers who laid him off, sternly arguing that he needs to move on and not simply get revenge on those who wronged him.
Thierry is not a particularly warm or likeable man, yet it’s impossible not to feel for him. He is by no means lazy, and consistently applies for jobs that seem like they should be a good fit. One particularly harrowing scene finds Thierry interviewing for a position via video conference with only his side of the conversation shown on screen. Thierry is told that he is interviewing for a lower position with a lower salary and then berated about the lackluster writing quality of his resume before being warned by the interviewer that he has a very low chance of getting the job. Thierry is hit again and again and told not to stand back up, but he continues to persist and to endure, eventually finding a monotonous job as a security guard.
This is hardly a fast-paced film, best compared to “Two Days, Two Nights,” which shares a theme of being French and dealing with unemployment, both films that linger in scenes rather than rush out of them. That style makes the ninety-three minutes of this film seem like an eternity, one that affords an opportunity to get to know Thierry, thanks also to the strong performance from London. This film feels highly relevant even if it does showcase a different society and culture, and its pensive structure makes it all the more poignant.