Cannes 74: ‘The Divide’ Review
One night in French ER.
In Catherine Corsini’s new picture, a plethora of colourful characters spend the evening in a Parisian hospital, while the city’s streets are in mayhem due to a gilets jaunes rally. The Altmanesque choreography introduces us to a jittery rioter with an injured leg, a gentle nurse in high demand, a psychotic junkie looking for pills, and finally a lesbian couple on the verge of breaking up. A broken-armed Valeria Bruni Tedeschi serves as the comic relief of the choral piece, in a spontaneously funny performance which puts her in pole position for a top award on the Croisette.
The line between comedy and drama is often crossed, as the warlike chaos outside inevitably breaks into the hospital. Echoing the title, there are many different fractures: structurally, as the narrative unfolds through the several characters’ perspectives; physically, with the patients’ many broken limbs; emotional, as relationships and beliefs shatter; and on a greater scale, as France itself is revealed to be cracked at its core. In fact, the country is the sickest of all, with its debilitated political and social values on their knees, people hating each other, and even its healthcare system collapsing (not only the lack of personnel, but the hospital literally falls apart). Can all these fractures heal up? Will they need a few stitches, maybe surgery, or should we just throw in the towel? The protagonists are left with all these clinical doubts, but the film’s own prognosis looks radiant.