It takes a few minutes to settle into Polisse – no expositional preamble, action and dialogue at breakneck pace, and is it drama or documentary? There’s the appearance of the latter, but soon criss-crossing storylines and sketched-in character arcs reveal themselves in a breathless mosaic of emotions and conflicts. You’ve been dropped into the world of Paris’s Child Protection Unit, where police deal with a never-ending river of cases from petty thievery to molestation.
This multi-camera, unvarnished slice-of-life looks at the cops who do this work – showing the psychological pressures, shifting relationships and, occasionally, humour exploding out of the tension. It’s variously harrowing, exhilarating and poignant, delivered at such speed and intensity there’s scarcely time to indulge these emotions.
Despite the rush, the actors communicate their characters brilliantly and with astonishing realism, bouncing off each other with nervy energy and natural-sounding dialogue. Only a romantic subplot feels shoehorned and artificial. You’ll recognise some of the cast without their make-up, and all, including the children, are disturbingly believable. It’s quite a ride.
POLISSE, directed by Maiwenn
OPENS DECEMBER 6
Films are rated out of 5: 1 = abysmal; 5 = amazing