Drifter Gary (Tahar Rahim) seemingly stumbles into a new job and a new world when he becomes a member of a team working to clean out radioactive waste at a nuclear power plant.
Quickly integrating within the fractured family he finds himself falling in love with Karole (Lea Seydoux) who unfortunately is co-worker Toni’s (Denis Menochet) fiancée. Gary and Karole engage in an intense affair which leads to an even tenser situation with the power plant as suspicion mounts like an overload in the reactor which keeps threatening to kill them all.‘Grand Central’, the second film written and directed by Rebecca Zlotowski is an uneasy watch. The entire film is underpinned with constant menace and threat despite little violence actually taking place on screen (save for one violent outburst). My cheesy analogy of the nuclear reactor is not a million miles away from the truth as through out the film there are several warning signs that the power plant they work in day in, day out could explode at any moment. That they are continually surrounded by danger that may creep up at a moments notice. We’re shown several sequences of men being hosed down and scanned for radiation.
The same happens within the emotional lives of the characters at Gary and Karole continually look over their shoulders as Toni seems to always be around the corner. Destruction and pain seems to be ever-present. Spelled out like that it may seems like a laboured point but ‘Grand Central’ plays out as melodrama in a thriller’s clothing.
Rahim and Seydoux both deliver intense performances, continuing their reputation as two of France’s strongest film performers. The film belongs to Rahim though. Gary walks around with the look of a homeless dog, aimlessly waiting to fight or love someone. Seydoux, though a little underused in what feels like a supporting role rather than equal billing gives Karole an ambiguity that raises the affair above mere lust and love. The supporting cast too are equally sure footed as the dysfunctional family. At times the narrative feels as though it is playing out as a series of vignette’s instead of a straight narrative and the ending may leave some disappointed as it reaches an emotional climax rather than a narrative one.It’s an ending that will stick in the memory though just as much as beautiful countryside that surrounds the gargantuan plant that sits ever present in the background. A viscerally raw film, the characters that inhabit ‘Grand Central’ are all damaged and lost in some way and even when they’re together seem like a disparate group of characters. It makes for intriguing drama for might not be to everyone’s tastes but it shows that Rahim and Seydoux continue to choose intelligent films to get stuck into.
‘Grand Central’ is available now on Blu-Ray, DVD and Download via Studio Canal.