Directed by: Laurent Cantet | 114 minutes | drama | Actors: Marina Foïs, Matthieu Lucci, Florian Beaujean, Mamadou Doumbia, Mélissa Guilbert, Warda Rammach, Julien Souve, Issam Talbi, Olivier Thouret, Charlie Barde, Marie Tarabella, Youcef Agal, Marianne Esposito, Thibaut Hernandez, Axel Caillet, Anne-Sophie Fayolle, Cedric Martinez
Successful writer Olivia Dejazet from the French capital takes a group of seven young adults under her wing during a summer creative writing class. The intention is that the aspiring writers will write a plot together for a thriller that is inspired by their own living environment.
The students live in the town of La Ciotat, so the well-known historic shipyard in neighboring Marseille is the stage for the yet-to-be-imagined story. They all have a different view of the plot, which is partly colored by their diversity of origin and religion. That, along with a dose of “millennial arrogance” also ensures that it clashes well from time to time.
When recent events are reviewed, such as the attacks in the Parisian pop temple Bataclan, Antoine and his fellow students are sometimes diametrically opposed. Muslims Fadi and Malika are right to defend themselves if Antoine likes to pigeonhole them as supporters of Islamic terror.
Olivia notes that the French boy is becoming more provocative and troubled eccentric as the course progresses. Everyone tries their best to contribute to the story, but when Antoine in turn reads out how he sees the story unfolding, the group is shocked. The passage is dripping with the outrageous fantasy of killing and feels extremely realistic as the words leave his lips. Antoine’s ideas about how nice violence can feel and sympathy for committing murder makes the rest of the group uneasy, and Olivia sends him away when he crosses the line of decency.
Dejazet becomes wary fascinated by her student and where his morbid character trait comes from. What she doesn’t know, however, is that Antoine’s sinister personality along with a fixation for his female mentor is also nurtured after each session…
To be fair, ‘L’Atelier’ has a good chance on paper to be a beautiful, intelligent and moving film. The cast provides full acting performances, only the story gets stuck a bit and especially the first half feels very slow. There simply isn’t much happening and as a viewer you get the feeling that you are watching a documentary about a random group of millennials bidding incoherent stories against each other at the bus stop; generally not very exciting. Partly because the film was shot in Marseille, you long for the feeling of a southern French film somewhere, but the cinematographers missed an opportunity there too. Because the course takes place in a beautiful villa, but you miss the feeling that you are a little bit jealous of that group with their beautiful Mediterranean accommodation.
‘L’atelier’ unexpectedly dies a quiet death, which you don’t see coming at the beginning, because there seems to be a storm coming. It leaves you feeling a bit despondent and unsatisfied while director Laurent Cantet, known for ‘Entre les murs’ and ‘Retour à Ithaque’, had plenty of opportunities to play down things like downplaying youth violence, contemporary terror threat and social awareness within society. to point. With that, Cantet’s latest work could have been more successful in the past four years.