Roch Stephanik's Stand-By was loosely inspired by the same incident as Spielberg's The Terminal but the treatment couldn't be more different. Dominique Blanc is abandoned by her husband in an airport because he can't stand being suffocated by her overdependency - and you won't be likely to disagree. She doesn't say or do much, but there's just something about her in those opening sequences that would tempt a Quaker to give her a good slap. Instead of going home she stays at the airport waiting for him to return, phoning him in Argentina (where he's moved for a new job), eventually drifting into prostitution, never leaving the airport further than the airport hotel rooms, living out of a luggage locker. It's the fact that she's forced to fend for herself for the first time rather than her prostitution that causes her to grow and become stronger as a human being, resisting the efforts of her sister and, eventually, her husband to get her to leave until she is willing to do so on her own terms. It's almost as if this woman who starts the movie acting as if she never left the womb does all her growing and rebelling and emotional catching up in this totally enclosed and artificial environment.
I'm a sucker for movies set in airports, and this is the best I've ever seen - it really captures the feel of a huge artificial world with an almost entirely transient population and is quite stunningly shot in striking but apt CinemaScope imagery. The cast are all superb, especially Patrick Catalifo in the potentially thankless role of the husband, Roschdy Zem as the Algerian cafe barman she befriends but refuses to sleep with and Cecile Brune as her sister. Things end maybe a little too neatly - her change of heart brought on by her first creepy customer and the name of the airline at the end did make me cringe - but it's neither as prurient nor as ridiculous as it could have been. Blanc's performance in particular is outstanding, and deservedly won a Cesar. Very highly recommended.
Like its heroine, the film doesn't seem to have left France, but the French DVD (with English subtitles) is well worth tracking down.
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