Between Two Worlds
August 31st, 2023
MOVIE: BETWEEN TWO WORLDS
STARRING: JULIETTE BINOCHE, HÉLÈNE LAMBERT, AUDE RUYTER
DIRECTED BY: EMMANUEL CARRÈRE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
It has become a yearly occurrence for Juliette Binoche to have a movie released and with each new performance her legend grows, rightfully receiving the tag as one of our best living actors. In the past five years, it has been, High Life, Who You Think I Am, The Truth, and Both Sides of the Blade. This year’s release is Between Two Worlds, which is again a great performance from Binoche and a reminder of how French cinema often hits differently. And by differently I just mean that it’s better. Director Emmanuel Carrère merges the world of fact to make fiction, spearheaded by Binoche’s impeccable ability to blend, in a true “walk in their shoes” story of Between Two Worlds.
Based on Florence Aubenas’ non-fiction essay “Le Quai de Ouistreham”, the story follows a journalist named Marianne Winckler (Binocce), as she is inspired to put herself into the subject she will write about. The first task is to enter the unemployment lines, along with countless other women in the port city of Caen, where Marianne accepts various cleaning jobs, often filled by those who need money desperately, working multiple shifts, all in the hopes of surviving another day. For Marianne it becomes a process of fitting in, accepting the job without prejudice, and growing closer to her new co-workers. She doesn’t need the money but the approach is to live it first and then maybe you can truly write about the experience. But how long can she be disloyal to the friends she makes? Or hurt the people she has grown to respect?
What makes Between Two Worlds so good is the narrative approach and direction by Carrère. There is a meta tone, as the only known actor is Binoche, with Carrère using non-actors for the various roles of women working alongside her. The story is about the group bonding in the struggle, cleaning hotel rooms or being transported to a cruise ship, cleaning filth left by wealthy passengers. Each character comes from different walks of life, both young and old. Lucie (Aude Ruyter) puts it all towards paying for a wedding, while someone like Chrystèle (Hélène Lambert) is working to survive. She’s a single mother, putting food on the table, and taking multiple forms of transportation just to get to a job that pays little. Many can relate and the authenticity is powerful.
As Marianne learns more about others and receives their kindness, the tension builds, and she wonders when she should give up the act. Carrère builds slowly and even allows the natural charisma of Binoche to blend in. Scenes at bowling alleys, a birthday celebration in the break room, or the laughter shared between the ladies feel like a documentary, and it works because Binoche sells it to perfection. If there are any issues in Between Two Worlds, it exists in how the narrative has a natural projection, telling a relatively straightforward story, where the complexity is merely internal.
That still doesn’t hinder the way Between Two Worlds lands. It’s similarly powerful to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night, the realistic style in the films of Agnes Varda, or recently Lukas Dhont’s Close. Merging the presence of an Oscar winner with the reality of life can seem like an impossible task and yet Between Two Worlds pulls it off. Maybe the praise solely belongs to Binoche. She’s an absolute chameleon at this point. Blending in and showing us that she can easily fit in with the working class. That’s when it’s called being a natural.
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS IS CURRENTLY PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND WILL EXPAND TO MORE ON FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady