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Zero Fucks Given (Rien à Foutre)

Director - Emmanuel Marre, Julie Lecoustre - 2021

"Filthy genius movie"
Air stewardess grapples with corporate greed and an empty partying lifestyle, in a profound and meaningful character study from France - on all major VoD platforms on Monday, January 30th

Here’s a good idea for budding young filmmakers in search of a subject. Pick a familiar job that people are aware of and that don’t ever get treated in films and then make a film about it. That’s what writers and directors Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre have done in their new film Zero Fucks Given (2021), which we caught at Tromsø International Film Festival.

Adele Exarchopolous plays 26-year-old flight attendant, Cassandre. She’s the one that has to go up and down the aisle of the plane asking: “any drinks, any snacks?”, or tempting you with duty free perfumes and colognes, or worse still telling you that your back doesn’t fit and you’ll have to pay an extra charge. They are the front line troops of the budget airline industry. Paltry paid and badly treated, with a corporate culture of the ‘time to lean, time to clean’ variety. Cassandre spends her hours off partying and swiping her way through Tinder, getting wasted and waking up in strange hotels in hot countries.

But somehow managing to get herself fixed and ready to go, hair tied up, make up on, breath mint sucked and please return your seat to the upright position! It sounds like a great hedonistic lifestyle but there’s a desperation to the partying and the constant dislocation has a frenzied feel. Sure enough it turns out that a tragedy has sent Cassandre on her course, losing herself in the numbing routine and avoiding responsibilities. Despite having been with the company – a Ryanair lookalike called Wings – for several years, she insists on staying as a junior member of the cabin crew.

In fact, it is when she is forced up the career ladder that things begin to unravel. The irony is that it isn’t her partying that threatens to ground her career but rather her empathy for an elderly passenger which leads her to behave with a degree of humanity not sanctioned by the company. Temporarily sent home, she has to confront her family and come to terms with what she left behind.

No Fucks Given is a film that actually gives a fuck. The air steward is a perfect example of the modern alienation that is written into the DNA of the service industry. You aren’t simply paid to do a job, but also you have to have an attitude, an emotional state which belongs to the company. You must be cheerful in the face of insults, eager to please, as long as that doesn’t contravene the moneymaking, and you have to shove the sales up which is where the profit margin lies. A job interview has Cassandre having to implicitly give up the right to have a baby or be in a relationship, as well as reveal how she would evade sexual assault. There’s no talk of how she would be protected. The onus is entirely on her.

But at the heart of this character study is Adèle Exarchopoulos’ searing performance. As an actor she has proven herself time and again capable of depicting the raw emotional responses of her roles: see Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013). Here she is as convincing in the ordinary moments as she is in the depths of her despair. She is grief and pain that doesn’t want to reveal itself, even to herself. The most moving scene in the whole film is a phone call about changing a roaming tariff plan. This is the opposite of histrionics.

From a technical aspect, cinematographer Olivier Boonjing follows the main character’s lead in using a mix of camera phone type shakiness and the occasional glimpses of the sublime. The garish nightclubs offer a cheerful vision of hell and soulless news while home is as gray as drizzle. Editor Nicolas Rumpi constantly surprises with his abrupt cuts which emulate the characters own sense of dislocation. This is a fascinating and soulful look at a key figure of our time and, when you next fly, it will make you wonder at the human beings behind the uniforms and bland frozen smiles.

Zero Fucks Given premiered at the 32nd Tromsø International Film Festival, when this piece was originally written. On all major VoD platforms on Monday, January 30th.

"Filthy genius movie"

By John Bleasdale - 20-01-2022

By John Bleasdale - 20-01-2022

John Bleasdale is a film critic and writer based in Italy. He has published a novel entitled Blood is on the Grass and a book of short stories as well as a number of articles and features. His work ha...

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