Political satire is hard to do. While France’s The Divide makes a valiant effort, it doesn’t always deliver. The story itself is a compelling one. There was plenty of opportunity to make a real statement about the state of France’s broken political, and by extension healthcare system. Unfortunately, the characters in this movie weren’t necessarily the best choice to deliver the message.
The Divide tells the story of Raf (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Julie (Marina Foïs), a couple on the verge of breaking up. When Raf, through a series of unfortunate events, ends up in a hospital, the two get swept up in the Yellow Vest protests that swept through the nation. The couple gets an up-close look at France’s crumbling health infrastructure, in spite of the socialized medicine France frequently boasts. The story itself had so much potential.
For starters, the characters themselves, aside for perhaps a couple, aren’t particularly sympathetic. While Raf and Julie are often entertaining, it’s actually quite sad to consider how much Julie has been living with a partner who clearly does not respect her needs. A lot of their dynamic is played for laughs as the movie unfolds, and yet Julie’s discomfort is evident. She’s a woman at the end of her rope.
Yann (Pio Marmaï) is perhaps the least sympathetic of all. His character definitely could have been used to make a pointed commentary on the nature of the Yellow Vest movement, and what leads ordinary people down this path of radicalization. Unfortunately, he too often devolves into a caricature, even when he eventually tries to be helpful to Raf while they’re both in the hospital. It’s really not understandable at all why he’s eager to resume his violent far-right ideology.
Another point shown briefly in The Divide is the relationship between the Yellow Vest movement and French police. At the beginning, the Yellow Vests clearly view the police as one of their own. This is never brought up again, however. It would have been an interesting venue to explore the far-right nature of the Yellow Vests, and their corresponding relationship with the police.
The strength of The Divide is it’s alarming vision of a healthcare system, and by extension a nation, in crisis. Countries around the world have seen the COVID-19 pandemic throw already precarious healthcare systems into chaos. The bleakness that pervades the movie is incredibly effective. The griminess almost comes through the screen. The Divide does succeed in making a pointed commentary that just because a healthcare system is socialized, does not mean it can be taken for granted.
The Divide brought up some very interesting ideas. Unfortunately, the movie couldn’t deliver on all of them. This could have been a chance to really examine the contrasting ideals of a nation at a crossroads in a compelling way. The set-up was there. The overall execution, however, was sadly missing. The Divide could have been so much more.
The Divide had it’s Canadian premiere at the 2022 Inside Out Film Festival.