The Right Of The Weakest

The Right Of The Weakest


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In the months before I saw this film I had been looking forward to a hospital appointment. It took me two and a half years to get, and I had assured myself that it would bring an end to my constant pain. That day, I received a letter saying that it was to be delayed by a further three months. I am going to have to rebuild all my survival strategies somehow. It was the hope I had placed in that appointment which was enabling me to cope.

Life without hope is difficult for anyone. The four men at the centre of The Right Of The Weakest used to work together in a factory which no longer needs them. Now, unable to find other work, they spend their time sitting in a bar playing cards. After Patrick's wife's moped breaks down, he can no longer afford even to do that. She works to support him, but his masculine pride is wounded. Each of the men suffers in his own way. They look for coping strategies like playing the lottery - a temporary means of building up hope. But what happens when the lottery result comes in and one hasn't won? Patrick's small son had desperately believed in it. That the adults around him have allowed themselves to do the same tells us something about their vulnerable psychological state.

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Into this volatile situation comes a man with a past. A former armed robber, he retains no love of his former lifestyle - in fact, he's desperately trying to get away from it - but his very presence is enough to inspire the other men. Couldn't they commit a hold-up? They're as capable as anyone else. Wouldn't that be a good way to obtain the money which could put an end to all their problems? Isn't it, just like the lottery, a chance worth taking?

There are plenty of heist movies out there which present us with men in similar situations, but The Right Of The Weakest is different, firstly in that it sticks with a realist approach throughout and secondly in that it focuses not on the perceived glamour or excitement of the act but, rather, on the moral qualms the men experience and on their hopeless naivete. It's a bit like watching them set up a business venture which seems doomed to failure. Then there's the career criminal, finding himself in deeper and deeper despite his abhorrence of the whole thing, yet determined that, no matter what happens, he won't go back to jail. He's a dangerous man; he's a lost individual; and also, over the course of the film, he becomes a martyr to all the people out there who live in hopeless situations. Wide sweeping aerial shots reveal the landscapes of a crumbling industrial town. Everyone here is eager for some free money. What really stands between them and criminality? Scarred by poverty, what do they perceive as their rights - and are they right about that, in their way?

The Right Of The Weakest is one of those impassioned yet carefully spoken political dramas that France is so good at, its politics themselves hidden under a blanket of action and of deliberately awkward personal stories. It makes no concessions to the usual demands of cinematic narrative - people don't feel anger or remorse or love when they ought to - they just behave like people. Well acted all round, it takes its time to build and it may well disappoint fans of conventional crime cinema, but it certainly has something to say.

Reviewed on: 27 Sep 2007
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The Right Of The Weakest packshot
A group of unemployed men who see no hope in their future decide to try to turn their fortunes around with a hold-up.
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Director: Lucas Belvaux

Writer: Lucas Belvaux

Starring: Eric Cavaca, Natacha Regnier, Lucas Belvaux, Patrick Descamps, Claude Semal, Elie Belvaux

Year: 2006

Runtime: 116 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2006

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