A story that revolves around Clemence who’s in the final stage of her political career as a Mayor of Parisian suburbs.Two main narrative threads combine in ‘Les Promesses’ (‘Promises’), the 2021 film by French director Thomas Kruithof. One of them, related to the precarious condition of the Paris suburbs, is centered around an urban project involving political parties (we are in the months before the local elections), landowners, corrupt lawyers, protest movements and municipal bureaucracy. The other is the personal drama of a politician, mayor of the city, who had promised to retire after two terms, and who in the end hesitates to do so, both because the approval of the project is at a standstill, but also, perhaps, or especially because resigning could be the end of her political career with the prospect of losing power, but especially of loneliness. Director and co-writer Thomas Kruithof chose to focus on the first story. The result is surprisingly successful. I am neither knowledgeable nor passionate about French local politics, and yet the film managed to captivate me.The main reason of this achievement, I think, is that ‘Les Promesses’ deals with a topic that is actual and asks questions that are valid in almost any democratic political system. The mastery of the secrets of the profession of filmmaking is obvious and at no time was it felt that this is only the second feature film of the director. The main characters are Clemence Collombet, the mayor of a city or neighborhood in the suburbs of Paris, and Yazid Jabbi, her trusted man. The two are local politicians with good intentions, rooted in the community, but the rules of the political games are muddy. Around them swarm a lot of helpers, lawyers, political activists at more or less high levels, venous apartment owners who keep their tenants – many of them immigrants – in precarious conditions. None of them is completely clean, each has his own personal interests and ambitions, almost all of them use questionable methods and use political and legal leverage to achieve their goals. The main question that the script asks is the credibility on which trust in the system ultimately depends, trust without which democracy has no chance of functioning.Frankly, I would have preferred the other story, that of the woman politician who reached the age of tough decision-making (to continue the political ascent to other levels? To retire?) and faced with the threat of loneliness to be treated in more depth. It seemed to me that there is an under-exploited big human story here, and Isabelle Huppert’s best efforts failed to outline it in the absence of lines and situations in the text that exploit this thread. I liked the fact that the script avoided any sentimental or erotic complications, including the obvious trap of a liaison between the mayor and her deputy. In fact, we don’t know anything about their private lives, and it’s better that way. Director Thomas Kruithof knows how to work well with his actors, starting with the casting stage to the guidance on the set. Concerning the cast, in addition to Isabelle Huppert, who continues to grow well with the characters she plays, I must of course mention the acting of Reda Kateb, who is excellent in the role of the mayor’s political partner. Each of the characters is believable, natural, and fits in well. The story is well paced. The ending seemed a little too nice with the heroes of the film, but that could not spoil the overall positive impression, far beyond expectations. For me, ‘Les promesses’ did not contain too many promises, but in the end it managed to interest and capture me in its world.
Stars : Isabelle Huppert, Reda Kateb, Naidra Ayadi, Isabelle Huppert, Reda Kateb, Naidra Ayadi
Genre : Drama
Country : France