Lucas Belvaux / France / 2017 / 117 mins
Part of the French Film Festival UK 2017
Directed by Lucas Belvaux, French political drama This Is Our Land follows Pauline (Emilie Dequenne), a hard-working nurse living in a fictional town in the north of France who juggles her job with being a single mother and caring for her ill father.
Pauline finds herself caught in the middle of the local mayoral election after she is approached to run for the position by the RNP. Although fictional, the right wing party closely resemble the National Front not only in their nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment, but also due to party leader Agnes Dorgelle (Catherine Jacob) not so subtly being a dead ringer for Marine Le Pen.
In an attempt to seem more approachable, the party uses Pauline’s image as a sympathetic and relatable candidate to influence the voters – but with that comes problems. As it turns out, Pauline has recently started dating her childhood boyfriend Stephane (Guillaume Gouix), who just happens to secretly have links to neo-Nazism and a tendency for violence towards foreigners, putting in jeopardy both her own and the party’s image.
Although Belvaux makes it very clear that the far right views of many of the characters are extremely deplorable, the film is ill-conceived and lacks any real depth. The characters are thinly sketched and one-dimensional, with little reason given to why they have developed such views. Dequenne – as she did in Belgian film Our Children – delivers a fantastically restrained performance, but she’s given little to do as her character appears to have no real motivations or political views.
While aptly-timed and well-intentioned, This Is Our Land struggles to capture the confusion and division of the current political landscape in France, and with such a thin, cartoon cast of cut-out characters, the film may have been more successful had it taken a more satirical tone to put across its simplistic message.