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French Film Festival UK 2021 Review - THE DIVIDE

the divide review
A Parisian hospital descends into chaos in the aftermath of a Yellow Vest protest.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Catherine Corsini

Starring: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Marina Foïs, Pio Marmaï, Aïssatou Diallo Sagna, Jean-Louis Coulloc'h

the divide poster

Depending on whom you ask or which media source you get your news from, France's Yellow Vest protest movement is comprised either of far-right fascists or loony lefties. From the outside at least, it seems to be a movement that's attracted anyone who wishes to express anger at the neo-liberal policies of the Macron regime, regardless of which side of the political fence they've jumped over to join in. Beginning as a protest against fuel price hikes, it's a movement that's snowballed to take in everyone from Marxists to anti-vaxxers. While in English-speaking territories we tend to air our political gripes to the void of social media, the French hit the streets every weekend.

Director Catherine Corsini's The Divide takes a look at the Yellow Vest movement through the setting of a chaotic Parisian hospital trying to cope with the fallout of another Saturday of rioting. In France the film was released under the title 'La Fracture', which is a more fitting moniker, as it refers not just to France's political turmoil but to the injury sustained by one of its leading characters.

the divide review

Comic book artist Raf (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) is on the verge of splitting up with her lover Julie (Marina Foïs), and it's easy to see why. Raf is, to put it frankly, a lot of work, constantly badgering Julie, who clearly has had enough of this very annoying woman. While chasing Julie down a street, Raf falls and fractures her arm.


She's brought to a hospital in the midst of chaos, with injured protesters arriving at a rate the hospital can't keep up with. Among them is Yann (Pio Marmaï), a trucker with a leg full of shrapnel from a flash grenade (between this and last year's Les Miserables, the flash grenade would seem to be the weapon of choice for Parisian cops). Yann wants to get out as quickly as he can, as he needs to return his truck before his employer realises he borrowed it to attend a protest.

the divide review

As the hospital literally crumbles around them, the middle class Raf and the working stiff Yann bicker about the motivations of the Yellow Vest movement. She accuses him of being a fascist, while he counters that her social class are the ones maintaining a status quo that suppresses low paid workers like himself.


An on and on it goes. If you were previously ignorant regarding the true motives of the Yellow Vests, you'll be just as befuddled by the end of The Divide. Raf and Yann make surface arguments with little to back them up, and at times it feels like you're watching Alf Garnett argue with his daughter's latest Labour voting boyfriend in an old episode of In Sickness and in Health.

the divide review

If there's little in the way of profound political insight on offer here, there are at least a couple of very entertaining performances from Marmaï and particularly Tedeschi, hilariously embodying the sort of angry woman destined to find her way onto the internet as the Karen of the day at some point.

Ultimately, Corsini avoids taking a side, and if anything she seems to sympathise most with those outside the political spectrum, the people who just have to get on with their jobs. This is represented by a tender performance by Aissatou Diallo Sagna as a stressed nurse working her sixth grueling shift in a row. As insults are hurled in her direction, she keeps a smile throughout, all while dealing with her own troubles involving her family. When protesters turn up en masse, the hospital takes them in, ignoring the orders of the police. Patients are patients for this very patient lot.

The Divide
 plays at the French Film Festival UK from November 5th.



2021 movie reviews