Film review: Polisse

TRUE GRIT: Polisse is part thriller, part police-procedural.
TRUE GRIT: Polisse is part thriller, part police-procedural.

Polisse (R16) 122 mins 

The French make excellent crime dramas, and this rendition of life working in Paris' Child Protection Unit is comparable to TV series Spiral and The Wire with its gritty social and professional realism, an engaging ensemble cast, and harrowing episodes of real-life trauma. Writer/director Maiwenn is well known in France as a child star who grew into a striking-looking woman intent on stepping behind the camera to make meaningful films.

Her fourth film, the Cannes award-winning Polisse (an intentional misspelling which evokes the film's juvenile subject matter), is part thriller, part police-procedural, equally educational and shocking in its portrayal of children who are abused and exploited.

French rap star Joey Starr is Fred, the member of the CPU most resistant to having photojournalist Melissa (played by Maiwenn herself) tasked with following them around. With his own family problems to contend with, his is one of many examples of the team members' intense professional lives filling the vacuum where private lives are falling apart.

The script was created from research into the CPU's daily work and actual cases of child abuse. The result is an enthralling, often disturbing and sometimes perplexing rollercoaster ride (the officers oscillate between depression over one case, then a rousing celebration in a nightclub following good news) and the interviews conducted with suspected abusers are as astounding as they are infuriating.

Sunday Star Times