Human Resources is a French film
that explores the difficulties that arise between father
(Jean-Claude Vallod), a factory
worker, and son
(Jalil Lespert), a business school graduate who interns at the Human Resources department in his father’s company.
This extraordinary film begins with an ordinary scene. As father and son sit at the table, discussing Franck’s (the son) upcoming interview
for the HR internship
, we encounter a short yet humorous dialogue
. “You’ve gotta prepare for the interview” Franck’s father says. Staring sheepishly from under his glasses, the old man gives his son advice on how to make a good impression and insists despite Frank’s many reassurances, that he listen to his suggestions. “Stop it dad, you are making me nervous,” Franck responds laughing.
But it is precisely such ordinary scenes
that express the tension between father and son at the crux of the film. The two do not discuss how they feel about their each other or have any direct confrontations until the end. On the contrary, the viewer
infers it through short encounters and mundane dialogue. This style
between the viewer
and the characters
. We feel like we are directly observing their life rather than watching a dramatized version of it on the screen.
Their encounters at work provide a glimpse of how their divide in status - him a confident manager
, the father, a humble worker - strain their personal relations. We begin to see this from Franck’s first day in his new position. When the father proudly escorts his son to show him his work
environment, Franck is ashamed. He follows him hesitantly, looks on silently, and leaves quickly. Franck’s feeling of shame is also revealed in the scene in which he dines with the executives
at the company cafeteria
. His father, sitting with fellow workers
, gazes at him with admiration and jealousy, while Franck avoids locking eyes with him.
The tension between father and son is magnified when Franck sets out to resolve a conflict between union
. With the wellbeing of the workers in mind, Frank suggests a new shorter 35-hour workweek and conducts a survey to determine the workers’ approval for the idea. At first, he is convinced the project is a success and invites his father to dine at a restaurant to celebrate. But he is no longer excited when later in the same day he finds out that management plans to use the results of his survey to fire a group of workers, including his own father. The dinner, anything but festive to Franck, becomes one of the most ironic and poignant scenes in the movie. While his father toasts his for his success, Frank clinks the glass with guilt in his eyes.
After Frank’s father learns that he will be fired
, chaos ensues and father and son are pitted against each other in a battle that involves the fate of the whole company. A lot of harsh words are said and unspoken feelings percolate to the surface. But the climax
works precisely because it uncovers what was alluded to but hardly exposed throughout the movie. And by the time it is, it feels astonishing. It’s as if after being blindfolded for a very long time, we become stunned when our freed eyes are suddenly struck by light. And it’s that moment of revelation that makes the movie an amazing experience.