LES PASSAGERS DE LA NUIT (Passengers of the Night ) (France 2021) ***12
Directed ny Mikhael Hers
The film begins with celebration on the streets of Paris. The date May 10, 1981 flashes on the screen. To those unfamiliar with that, it is election might and the Parisiennes are celebrating a new air of hope and change.
But it is a different change in store for the film’s protagonist. For Elisabeth (Charlotte Gainsbourg), her marriage is coming to an end and she will now have to support herself and her two teenage children. As she tells her father, she now has to look for work. She (not too tech-savvy) is first hired and fired on the same day because she forgets to save a file after entering all the inventory data. Her daughter tells her that she should have remembered what she taught her - using autosave. There is a slight problem in timing of this scenario, as in 1984 there were little or no PC’s around. How could the daughter be familiar with computers and most data entry were done on main frames. The auto-save feature in 1984 was unlikely to be invented yet. But other props like the older looking television set look authentic for the year 1984.
At the time, radio talks shows were still popular. She finds work at a late-night radio show and encounters a troubled teenager (interviewed for the program PASSENGERS OF THE NIGHT, named Talulah whom she invites into her home. With them, Talulah experiences the warmth of a family for the first time. Although she suddenly disappears, her free spirit has a lasting influence. Elisabeth and her children grow in confidence and begin to mature.
Emmanuelle Baert who rose to fame after MANON DES SOURCES has an important supporting role as Vanda, Elisabeth’s chain smoking radio boss. Vanda shows strength and vulnerability, often controlled by her moods affected by forces beyond her control. Beart is a pleasure to watch, especially when she is delivering her performance demonstrating strong screen presence, especially stealing the club scene where she is seen still with a cigarette in her mouth while grooving on the dance floor.
Cinema plays a big part in the film’s narrative. The first instance he two teenage children learn about independence is when they go for an evening at the cinema. They’re taught and shown how to sneak into the theatre after not being allowed in, after being more than 5 minutes late. Talulah also tells them that he loves the cinema and it makes her forget who she is.
Director Hers moves his film at a casual pace, allowing his audience to let the events of the story of the action and behaviours of the characters sink in.
Major classics stories include a stranger that comes into the lives of a family, then disappears while making a distinct impact. Among these are of course MARY POPPINS and the stranger in George Stevens’ classic SHANE. In this film, Talulah is the stranger who disappears right after having a sexual encounter with Elisabeth’s son.
PASSENGERS OF THE NIGHT is an easy flowing yet effective family drama in which a family hears and grows from a stranger in their lives.