Review: We Need Your Vote
by Fabien Lemercier
- Comic book author Mathieu Sapin's directorial debut is a biting yet light-hearted comedy about the goings-on behind the scenes of a political campaign
"France, interested? The presidentials are approaching (...) Politics is an environment heaving with pheromones; you’ll find more alpha males here than in the rest of the population (...) 5pm in the Assembly, that’s when the big kids come out to play." Arnaud Jaurès suddenly finds himself on the scene, 25 years old, quadrilingual, catapulted from a job giving private German tuition to an apparatchik, into a position as the campaign director’s assistant for a candidate in the primaries of the New Democratic Movement. It’s this novice’s journey and complete lack of proficiency in electoral manoeuvres that the entertaining comedy We Need Your Vote [+see also:
film profile] chooses to focus on, with drums beating. This is the first feature film by Mathieu Sapin, author-cum-cartoonist who knows the subject matter all too well given his previous publications Campagne présidentielle in 2012 and Le Château (behind the scenes of the Élysée) in 2015.
Putting his plan to go to Canada to set up an NGO with his girlfriend on hold, novice Arnaud (Finnegan Oldfield) initially fumbles about painfully, at the service of the highly directive and brash Agnès Karadzic (Alexandra Lamy), secretly nicknamed "the refrigerator": "this guy represents 3,000 votes (...), you must know everything, this is what politics is also about. I don't think you fit the bill, we need quick-minded people." During trips through the provinces and onto TV sets on the heels of the candidate Catherine Beressi (Valérie Karsenti), Arnaud beings to find his place, little by little, before the whole communication team suddenly changes tack in favour of the winner of the primaries, Pascal Prenois (Gilles Cohen): "Politics is also about knowing how to change strategy."
And so begins the second phase, the presidential campaign, with an increasingly intense tour of France, from research labs at shelters, to meetings and briefings. Blocked by Agnès, Arnaud unexpectedly succeeds in getting into the candidate's primary circle, attracting attention with a single punchline. Skilfully navigating between the currents ("politics is also about choosing your side") and strategies ("We're going to unite, wake up, this sequence is finished. We adapt our ambitions to our means"), he will nevertheless commit a fatal error... or almost, because in politics, nothing is ever definitively lost, and the Capitoline Hill is close to the Tarpeian Rock...
Mixing elements that sound very credible (approached with an irony whose speed and comedy gently serve to defuse the copious amounts of ridicule and ferocity) with a more classically romantic ascent (almost Balzac-esque), We Need Your Vote creates a funny portrait of a world full of interchangeable ruthless individuals, often drowning in as little as a glass of water and quick to stab each other in the back with a smile. Very well acted (including by Brigitte Rouan and Philippe Katherine), the film, whose screenplay was written by Mathieu Sapin and Noé Debré, stays fairly wise and relatively conventional in its narrative and doesn’t quite reach the heights of some other films in the genre, such as Quai d'Orsay by Bertrand Tavernier. But it is a first feature that is not lacking in spirit nor rhythm, and clearly sets itself apart, thanks to its subtlety, from the endless list of run-of-the-mill French comedies.
(Translated from French)
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