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Recently fired from his job, but unable to confess the truth to his close-knit family, Vincent spends his days driving around the countryside, talking into his cell phone and staring into space. Vincent fabricates a new job for himself so his family and friends will not know that he is out of work. At one point, he even sneaks into an office building. As Vincent roams the building's sterile halls, peeking into meeting rooms where men are busy at work, we see a man who yearns not just for a new job, but also for a place in the world. While this pantomime of work initially registers as sad and even a little pathetic, it slowly and unnervingly becomes terrifying. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Time Out is, in essence, a psychological study of a man who is in "denial" after he loses his job as a Financial Consultant and resorts to lies and deception to keep up the pretense of employment for the sake of his family. Yet it is also a searing portrait of the failure of the workplace to provide a nurturing environment for people (not a theme much explored in the Hollywood assembly line these days).
Time Out is a subtle, involving, and truly perceptive film that deals with the shallow, conformist world of middle management. It depicts how an individual's identity can be so wrapped up in what they do that they can scarcely remember who they really are and what is most meaningful in their life. As Jonathan Rosenbaum has pointed out, it is reminiscent of Melville's "Bartelby the Scrivener" in its depiction of a banal middle-aged businessman who would just prefer not to tell the truth.
Aurélien Recoing (a popular French stage actor) plays Vincent, who is so detached from reality he goes through the motions of pretending to work for the United Nations on a development mission. His "job" is conveniently based away from his wife and three children in Switzerland. Here he spends his hours driving around in his car, going in and out of hotels and conference rooms, exerting as much energy in his pretense as he would if he were actually working. I think the point is that his "pretend" job is different only in degree from his former "real" one.
Cantet uses the business world with its offices, hotels, and associates to portray an individual whose day-to-day activity consists only in constructing a false life. Vincent has to resort to obtaining money under false pretenses from his friends and his father and to assist a petty criminal in his smuggling attempts. For all his lies, Vincent confesses how suffocating his job has been. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do," he cries to his wife, under the pretense of discussing his non-existent new position.
As he stands on the outside looking in, he slowly loses touch with everything that has given his life meaning. His family, who he truly loves, also cannot provide the emotional support he needs. The impression is that the lack of emotional expression, the failure to communicate, and the skimming along on the surface of life is not new to this family. These are the same people who live next door to you, always happy and smiling who seem to have it together until a crisis comes. Then, they have no inner strength to deal with it.
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