After Vincent (Aurélien Recoing) loses his job of 11 years, he is unable to tell his wife Muriel (Karin Viard), his three children or his parents. Instead, he invents a new job across the border in Geneva, and maintains the pretence by embezzling money from friends, borrowing from his father (Jean-Pierre Mangeot) and getting involved with a stranger (Serge Livrozet) who buys and sells imitation brand goods. As Muriel’s suspicions over her husband continue to grow, she confronts Vincent who is forced to settle the bizarre double-life he has created.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With his Tommy Lee-Jones looks and manners, Aurélien Recoing is excellent as the man who isn’t there, at least temporarily, after a mid-career crisis. Karin Viard is just as good, responding to direction that demands minimalist performances built on large doses of hidden tension. We are dragged slowly into this story, and for much of the film are fed everyday details of his days and the lives around him. Vincent spending his days in his car or on foot, filling in the time he is supposed to be at work, at meetings, at corporate meals. Much of this ‘nothing’ is made absolutely gripping by the sheer focus of direction. His wife and kids living the suburban life of middle class France, dealing with the routines by rote. Laurent Cantet’s unhurried approach meanders its way through what is at once a fascinating and a frustrating screenplay, with a combination of edgy, understated drama and incomplete scenario. This is perfectly exemplified by the ending, which looks as though it’s either a new end scene stuck onto his original one for a more positive mood, or it’s simply a puzzling decision to put two dramatically competing scenes together and let the audience fill in the missing scene/s. The images, and the cello-led score for strings, both add comprehensively to the film’s total mood, and while it doesn’t entirely fulfil its promise (and runs about half an hour too long), Time Out is an engaging essay on a man who needs time out from life and doesn’t know how to do it successfully.
Review by Paul Kalina:
Laurent Cantet’s third feature is a haunting, oddly comic yet devastating portrait of a man trapped inside a suite of roles whose values he no longer understands or shares. It’s the story of Vincent, whose disinterest-bordering-contempt for his job leads to his sacking. Unwilling to admit this awful if inevitable truth to his family and friends, he fabricates a new existence to mask his simultaneous sense of shame, liberation, exile and detachment.
Ambiguity is the hallmark of Cantat’s flawlessly directed film as he depicts Vincent’s descent into an increasingly surreal fantasy existence. In one of the film’s earliest scenes, from behind the wheel of his car he playfully chases a train to see if the car or train arrives first at a road crossing. In another extraordinary sequence, Vincent sneaks into UN headquarters, eavesdropping like an unseen ghost on abstract bureaucratic process.
It could be easy to read this as a plea for victims of economic downsizing, but Cantet refuses to politicise Vincent’s plight. The seemingly meek and victimised Vincent is not above exploiting gullible individuals for easy money, to lie to his wife and children, to idle away his time while others toil and to fleece a father who he clearly detests. It is a film with a grand human dimension, a grim account of a frightening, contemporary dystopia where individuals are defined, but no longer sustained, by their social, domestic and professional roles and ethical principles, escape from which Vincent can only fantasise. Cantet’s exacting direction and the measured performances of Recoing (a stage actor playing his first lead role in a film) and Viard (seen in Jeu d’Enfants on World Movies) never strike a false note nor overstate the subtle observations. Scenes that are testament to Cantet’s exceptional directorial skills fill this film, such as when Vincent imagines he has lost Muriel in the mist of a snowy mountain, the above-mentioned scene in the UN and the haunting frames that end it. This film may not restore one’s confidence in global capitalism and how it shapes human relations, but for a tonic to restore one’s faith in cinema art in a period of diminishing rewards it should not be missed.
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TIME OUT (PG)
(L’emploi du temps)
CAST: Aurélien Recoing, Karin Viard, Serge Livrozet, Jean-Pierre Mangeot, Monique Mangeot
PRODUCER: Caroline Benjo
DIRECTOR: Laurent Cantet
SCRIPT: Laurent Cantet, Robin Campillo
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pierre Milon
EDITOR: Robin Campillo
MUSIC: Jocelyn Pook
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Romain Denis
RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 17, 2002 (Sydney/Melbourne)