Review: Grand Central

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Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Cert: Club
Genre: Drama
Starring: Johan Libéreau
Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins

Gary (Tahar Rahim) is a nomadic and unskilled labourer who swaps cherry-tomato picking for the more dangerous but lucrative business of reactor maintenance at a nuclear power plant.

Some way into this drama, Gary meets Karole (Léa Seydoux), the wife of a co-worker, who rubs up against him in order to trumpet an analogy between radiation and sex, a correspondence that will hang over Grand Central until the final credits roll.

Rebecca Zlotowski's film, the recipient of the François Chalais Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival, has all the trappings of a cool French arthouse movie. There are big, brash post-Godardian fonts, in red, bien sur. There's some splendidly discombobulating sound design. There's an achingly hip central pairing in Blue Is the Warmest Colour's Seydoux and A Prophet's Rahim. There are Geiger counters, which come second only to unexploded bombs for inherent drama.

For all that, Grand Central is curiously muted and disconnected. For a drama, it's awfully short on, well, drama. Every time it threatens to become a contemporary Silkwood or a heterosexual Blue Is the Warmest Colour, it seems to pull back and maintain and careful distance. Gary drifts into the illicit affair just as he drifts into his potentially deadly occupation. There's no sense of psychology or motivation here, and the love affair, by extension, generates very little by way of heat signature.


Still, Grand Central does score points for intrigue and atmosphere. The film's white trash world of hip-hop, trailer parks, cheap clothes and cheaper wine is beautifully realised, and provides a welcome respite from the well-appointed Parisian apartments that define most French film exports.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic