Eye For Film >> Movies >> 7 Minutes (2016) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
As workers rights and takeover bids continue to dominate the headlines across Europe, with firms shifting operations to places with cheaper labour - a move also skewered by recent French documentary Thanks Boss! - Michele Placido's dramatic consideration of what this erosion of rights means is extremely timely.
Based on the play by Stefano Massini, who drew his inspiration from a real-life takeover of a French textile factory, the action moves to Italy and, predominately, focuses not on the boardroom machinations but on the decision that 11 female workers must take about the plant's future. Among those who must vote on the new terms and conditions are old guard staff, who have been at the plant for decades, including Bianca (Ottavia Piccolo) - the designated member forced to sit in on the boardroom, and suffer tacit belittling from the owners as they discuss the deal.
The film's stage roots show through in the collection of characters assembled here, each one representing a very specific viewpoint - from the middle-aged woman just desperate not to lose her job as other friends have to the Albanian emigre, who insists she has never had it so good and an office worker who now uses a wheelchair after an accident on the shop floor. The ensemble acting is so strong, however, that you soon forget the didactic element as Placido slowly begins to ratchet up the tension between the women. Although, on paper, the film might sound as though it follows similar beats to Made In Dagenham, it owes much more to the likes of Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men, as the pressure builds in the confined industrial space of the factory and the clock ticks on the deadline for the women to cast a majority vote.
The film's title refers to the deal on the table, no swingeing cuts or relocation but a desire, on the part of the new owners (headed by Anne Consigny in a chic but icy turn), for the women to sacrifice seven minutes of their break time. It seems a small request and, at first, they seem happy to accept it, but Bianca patiently tries to suggest that this is just the thin end of the wedge. More than a sense of animosity to one another, Placido taps into the sense of fear that pervades many workforces in the modern era, asking is the frightening spectre of job losses enough to trump a sense of solidarity?
Placido's direction and the cinematography of Arnaldo Catinari have a smooth elegance that retains tension without making the film feel confined by its original stage play setting. The camera glides from character to character - frequently focusing not on the speaker but on the reactions of the others to what is being said. Overhead shots of the table are also used judiciously to break the monotony or show changes in the women's body language. There are also economical nods to the wider world, such as workers protesting outside the plant and the sense that this is the run-up to Christmas, surely the worst time of year to find yourself unemployed. Most importantly, he puts us right in the room with them, in heart as well as in head, asking us to consider the deep and wide implications of one word on a piece of paper.Reviewed on: 13 Mar 2017