Movie  Qui Vive (Insecure), a film by Marianne Tardieu
15/06/201700:00 Judith Prescott

After Sylvie Ohayon’s Papa was Not a Rolling Stone and Céline Sciamma’s Bande de Filles, French cinema once again turns to life on one of France’s much maligned, high-rise housing estates for inspiration. While Ohayon and Sciamma found fresh takes on a well-documented social stratum, Marianne Tardieu’s Qui Vive appears to be lagging in rhythm and focus, but was compensated by the best efforts of Reda Kateb and Adèle Exarchopoulos in the lead roles.

Chérif (Kateb) has reached the crossroads in his life. In his mid-thirties, he has moved back to live with his parents on a housing estate just outside Rennes, while waiting for the results of his fourth attempt to pass a written exam to train as a male nurse. In the meantime, he has found work as a security guard in a local shopping centre. The work is dull and made worse by a group of bored teenagers who hang out at the mall and amuse themselves by taunting Chérif daily. The one bright spot in his life is an unexpected romance with a young teacher, Jenny (Exarchopoulos). But Chérif cannot escape the darker side of life on the estate, and he makes a bad decision which puts his future plans in jeopardy.
Tardieu paints a harsh picture of life in France’s rougher, mostly immigrant, suburbs. Living conditions are grim, work is hard to find and it’s easy to see why some youngsters are drawn to a life of crime. Look at Chérif’s friend, Dedah (Rashid Debbouze), a well-known criminal who is given a hero’s welcome, even by Chérif’s mother, when he returns to Rennes on a visit. While Chérif has so far resisted temptation, sticking to the straight and narrow is not easy. Taking the moral highground meant that his life is a lot less glamourous than Dedah’s and his gangsta friends. So what can you expect in return for living an honest, hardworking life? Not much, according to Qui Vive. The overall message is one of "keep your head down, don’t expect too much from life and you won’t be disappointed".


Ketab, who is best-known to foreign audiences as Ammar in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero, Dark Thirty, is a hugely sympathetic actor. He was in a class of his own in Thomas Lilti’s Hippocrate and is both vulnerable and slightly menacing in Qui Vive. The scene where he goes before a board for an oral exam is both moving and excruciating. Exarchopoulos spends a minimal amount of time on screen, which is a shame, as she is provides much needed contrast to the general gloom and doom of the film.

Qui vive is on air on TV5MONDE. Click here for the movie's schedule in your time zone.

This article was originally published in
French Cinema Review, a blog focusing on French Cinema curated and written by Judith Prescott.
I have worked as a journalist for 24 years both in London, England and now in Paris, France. I was a broadcast journalist for the English service of Radio France Internationale in Paris for 17 years before leaving to set up a blog for French cinema fans everywhere. I also worked as a reviewer of French films for The Hollywood Reporter and was a jury member for the Prix Michel d'Ornano at the Festival of American Films at Deauville. I am passionate about French films, both old and new, and want to share this passion with filmgoers around the globe.

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