Patience (Isabelle Huppert), an interpreter for the French police force, finds herself getting involved with criminal enterprises and those she’s helping to catch in an effort to support her family and ailing mother.
A comedy with some dramatic touches, to get it out of the way yes there are some Breaking Bad elements; not least of all the idiosyncratic somewhat hapless goons tasked with moving goods through the black market. Her encounters with same lead to some of the best scenes in the film, including an initial extraction of goods and chase in a department store.
There are many films focused on criminal enterprise and interpreters the latter of whom, for dramatic effect, usually play a fleeting role, if at all. Their function is underexplored in cinema and in any professional setting they are usually the hardest-working person in the room having to work twice as much as everyone else. Reflective of this, the particular focus of The Godmother is a refreshing one.
Centring in part on the respective characters’ identities (Patience is Jewish while many of those she encounters are of Arabic background), the film interestingly touches on though never goes into great detail as to why different groups may be reticent to trust the police and feel pressure to operate outside of the law.
Reaching heights when engaging with Patience’s relationship with her neighbour who too looks to profit, another curious dynamic still is that between Patience and her lover, too the head of the taskforce. Setting this figure up as having a very defined moral compass, as established at a scene in a Zoo, The Godmother’s final sequences will have him act otherwise in order to impart a particular tone – maybe something the filmmakers wanted us to come away with but at the expense of the otherwise well evinced characterisations.
‘The Godmother’ screens as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival