After the success of La Daronne – a wacky comedy about an Arab-French translator from the narcotics brigade who sets up her small drug business to pay for her mother's retirement home – Jean Paul Salomé reunites with Isabelle Huppert in La Syndicalist. A mix between political film and personal drama. All in the sensitive nuclear sector which has had a bad reputation since the Chernobyl disasters in 1986, then Fukushima in 2011.
It all starts with a true story that dates back to 2012, the very day when Maureen Kearney, CFDT delegate at Areva, has an appointment with the President of the Republic François Hollande. In the morning, she was found gagged, tied to a chair, her stomach slashed in an A-shape by a knife, the handle of which had been thrust into her vagina. Horror scene which everything suggests that she was the victim of an intimidation attempt. Problem: Investigators find no trace of the attackers.
Still, the victim is at the heart of a sensitive case in the French nuclear sector, which threatens fifty thousand jobs. Unionist and whistleblower, this Irish-born denounces an arrangement between the CEO of EDF Henri Proglio and the Chinese electrician CGNPC. Secretary of the central works council, she maintains excellent relations with Anne Lauvergeon, president of the executive board of the European nuclear giant, replaced in 2011 by Luc Oursel. But the one who is criticized for not being an engineer but a simple English teacher as part of continuing education quickly hits a wall.
Faithful to reality - shooting in Bercy, Rambouillet hospital and the Versailles court - and to the investigation of journalist Caroline Michel-Aguirre, whose book title he kept, Jean-Paul Salomé goes back to the thread of the story carried by the ambiguous acting of Isabelle Huppert, who knows how to maintain mystery and doubt about her character. She is surrounded by solid actors: Marina Foïs, very fair in the role of Anne Lauvergeon, Yvan Attal in the angry one of Luc Oursel, and Grégory Gadebois in the role of Maureen's outdated husband.
Beyond this ugly affair with the air of barbouzerie, the spectator, just like the suspicious policeman – excellent Pierre Deladonchamps – who is leading the investigation, has a hard time getting an idea of the facts. Is Maureen a victim or culprit of this court-ordered scheme? Wouldn't it be a staging by herself and her husband? Wasn't she overwhelmed by her own revelation that turned into a political scandal? Did she make up an alibi to get out? So many unanswered questions. A first trial where she appealed, then a second did not reveal the truth.
La Syndicalist leaves it at that, with this taste of unfinished business, without really causing trouble. We lost the suspense on the way and we then fall into the ordinary drama which avoids the scathing social satire dear to the Chabrol of The Drunkenness of Power, of which the same Isabelle Huppert was the headliner in her last role for the filmmaker.