When Work Rules

In Time Out, one man goes too far when he's fired

Rating: NN

calling his wife on his cell-phone with reports of meetings and deals, Vincent (Aurélien Recoing) sounds like a businessman on the road. Except he’s calling from roadside stops and seems to sleep in his car. Once a financial officer in a large company, he’s been fired from his job but hasn’t worked up the nerve to tell his wife (Karin Viard) or family.Time Out is a tough film to classify dramatically. One narrative thread involves the psychological study of a man whose identity is so tied up with his job that when he loses it he projects a fantasy life in great detail rather than confront reality. Another thread is a kind of thriller story about Vincent being driven by economic desperation to become a low-grade con man who gets people to invest in a fake investment scheme.

Aurélian Recoing is a French Kevin Spacey type — physically unprepossessing, balding, uncomfortably edging into middle age — and you could tag Time Out as a French version of American Beauty, only without the self-congratulatory hero and the cooked-up melodrama.

As a visual strategist, director Laurent Cantet seems resolutely indifferent to the scenic possibilities of the French-Swiss border. The few times he indulges in Alpine scenery come as a shock after long stretches of time looking at impersonal hotels, glass office buildings and anonymous carparks. Maybe he’s just letting the dulled exteriors reflect the poverty of the protagonist’s inner life. Vincent is so committed to maintaining the pretence of his new job as a development consultant at the UN in Geneva that he spends his spare time actually reading UN documents.

After a steady diet of contemporary Hollywood movies, we’ve come to expect that every frame of a film will look like a Vermeer.

It requires a bit of an adjustment to watch a film that pays less attention to the exquisite art of the cinematographer and more to the inner lives of the characters.

Time Out is a surprising drama that never quite lets us know where it’s going, but the destination is certainly worth the journey.

TIME OUT directed by Laurent Cantet, written by Cantet and Robin Campillo, produced by Caroline Benjo, with Aurélien Recoing, Karin Viard, Serge Livozet and Jean-Pierre Mangeot. 130 minutes. A ThinkFilm release. Opens Friday (May 3). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 80. Rating: NNNN

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