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The daily grind for the cops of the Police Department's Juvenile Protection Unit - taking in child molesters, busting underage pickpockets and chewing over relationship issues at lunch; interrogating abusive parents, taking statements from children, confronting the excesses of teen sexuality, enjoying solidarity with colleagues and laughing uncontrollably at the most unthinkable moments. Knowing the worst exists and living with it. How do these cops balance their private lives and the reality they confront every working day? Fred, the group's hypersensitive wild card, is going to have a hard time facing the scrutiny of Melissa, a photographer on a Ministry of the Interior assignment to document the unit. Written by
Polisse is a difficult film to define. Based on real-life cases dealt with by the Child Protection Unit covering the 19th arrondissement (borough or quarter) of Paris, it could possibly be called a docudrama, although it does not cover events of historical significance.
Maïwenn, who wrote, directed and featured in the film as a photojournalist shadowing the unit, spent time herself with such a unit for research. All the cases featured in the film are supposed to have taken place while she was there or were recounted to her at that time. It is this that gives the film its lifelike, gritty quality. Indeed, the first scene plunges straight into an interview with a little girl who claims her father is molesting her, and is swiftly followed by other similar interviews with suspected paedophiles, victims and accusers. Despite the obviously very serious subject of the film, humorous moments pepper the script, which successfully highlights the tragicomic ludicrousness of some of the situations they encounter.
Alongside the cases of child molesting and underage rape that the team deals with on a day- to-day basis, the film delves into the complex personalities of the characters, who are at times tender and patient, and at others frustrated, angry and even violent. We are privy to the emotional strain the job has on these police officers and the effects on their personal lives, their marriages and relationships with their children. Special bonds also develop between them, and their intimacy and affinity is so well portrayed that it is easy to forget that this is in fact a film and not simply a documentary.
Though Polisse, like real life, does not really follow a plot line, and we never find out if the criminals are actually brought to justice, one does not become bored or frustrated or ever wonder where the film is going. In fact, just like the TV series The Wire to which it has been compared, it is the lack of obvious direction of the film that ultimately makes it all the more powerful and effective.
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