After Clear history (Kervern and Delépine, 2020), Catherine Corsini’s film is the second fiction that attempts to account for the yellow vests movement. But the first quality of The divideis that the scenario does not need to invent more or less incredible adventures to be interested in the characters: the most banal daily life is an inexhaustible resource!
The designer Raf (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) falls and breaks her elbow while pursuing Julie (Marina Foïs) who is both her editor and her companion, but has decided to break up, exhausted by the moral harassment that Raf inflicts on her. Raf finds himself in the emergency room of a Parisian hospital. Julie will join her soon. The truck driver Yann (Pio Marmaï) is injured in the leg by the fragments of a de-encircling grenade while he was participating in a demonstration of yellow vests during his working time. In addition to the physical pain, there is the anguish of losing your job. The whole film takes place in the cramped premises of the emergency department, while the charges of CRS approach dangerously close to the gates of the hospital by throwing tear gas canisters (direct echo of the incidents of May 1, 2019 at the Paris hospital of the Pitié-Salpêtrière).
The fourth character of the film, nurse Kim (Aïssatou Diallo Sagna) – who is on her sixth night on call (although it is forbidden to do more than three consecutive) – becomes the pivot of the plot. We remember that an indefinite strike by the emergency services began in early 2019, to protest against the working conditions and salaries of staff, who did not wait for the Covid crisis to be exhausted … The second quality of the film de Corsini is to show that the crisis of the yellow vests and the crisis of the public hospital are only one, that of the poor workers who revolt against the degradation of their living and working conditions.
Finally, we must salute the writing qualities of this social film which compares it to the best works of Ken Loach. Unity of place, unity of time, unity of action, we come back to the fundamentals, but with elements drawn from the most everyday reality. Catherine Corsini does not hide that she was inspired by her own couple to describe the relations of Raf and Julie, the first who constantly borders on hysteria, especially since she is immobilized by her fracture, the second swinging between the desire to come to the aid of his partner and the desire to maintain his decision to break up. Despite the dramatic situation experienced by the protagonists, the fast-paced rhythm of the film very often provokes laughter, without the director losing her empathetic gaze, both on the patients and on the hospital staff.
The trivialization of the lesbian couple, in the throes of a crisis as many know, is one of the film’s successes, to which must be added the staging of class differences, which occur in particular through socio-cultural inequalities. Raf and Yann have in common their ability to moan, which is undoubtedly the greatest common denominator of the French population, but she and he clash very quickly on the basis of their reciprocal prejudices: we remember that the debate on vests yellow first focused on the accusations of lepenism brought by certain “intellectuals of the left” against the demonstrators. It is this confrontation that Raf and Yann replay, before the dramatic circumstances of the night lead them to talk to each other less aggressively, and to gradually understand each other, despite their disagreements.
Finally, Kim the nurse (the only non-professional actress, a caregiver in life) is a magnificent embodiment of care, this ability to take care of others, so essential to living together and so little valued by society. Catherine Corsini does intersectionality (without knowing it?) Without delivering the slightest moral lesson to the public. It shows the abyss which separates the life of the couple of lesbians “sore” from the life of a nurse in whom the discriminations of class, gender and race accumulate. And last but not least, how this multifaceted domination promotes empathy in Kim with the sufferings of others …