A vérité-style drama based on the daily work of Paris’s ‘Brigade de protection des mineurs,’ Polisse’s treatment of difficult subject matter (child abuse in all its forms) is boldly uncompromising. In preparation, writer/director Maïwenn spent time embedded with the aforementioned child protection unit, and her research fosters a grim verisimilitude on proceedings, as does a coreless structure that flits from traumatic case to traumatic case, withholding both closure and context.
The film’s chaotic and messy non-plot instils a befitting breathlessness, staring unblinkingly at an everyday depravity in which childhoods are snuffed out with terrible regularity. Interspersed are scenes of the officers off-the-clock, each life complicated and invaded by the pressures of their bruising occupation. But, an unnecessarily overwrought climax aside, the film resists turning these professionals into saints or martyrs, with insensitive behaviour and misjudgements to digest along with the expected soul-searching. The end result is tonally erratic and susceptible to cliché, but hugely affecting nevertheless.