“Passengers of the night” are bored during the day

A chronicle of the 1980s, this film by Mikhaël Hers, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, is an intimate and lengthy tale.

It was the good time, the people were in the streets of Paris, in this May 10, 1981, evening of jubilation and victory. Enough to move the nostalgic voters of the left, in these times of repetitive Macronism. This is the day that Mikhaël Hers’s film, “Les passagers de la nuit” (released on May 4), which takes place almost the time of a Mitterrandian septennat, from 1981 to 1988. “Les passagers de la nuit” is also the title of the nightly radio show on France Inter, hosted in the film by Vanda (played by Emmanuelle Béart), a sort of Macha Béranger, with male clothes, cigarettes and a glass of whisky.
A voice in the night listened to by a faithful listener of the show, with an unreliable sleep, Elisabeth, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Elisabeth is not in great shape, bruised by the departure of her husband, she still lives in the family apartment with her two grown children, Matthias (Quito Rayon-Richter), who pretends to be in high school and dreams of being a writer, and Judith (Megan Northam), already an activist who imagines herself in politics. Separated, depressed, and with a family to support, Elisabeth must find a job; luckily, she starts working at the switchboard of her favorite show, where she can put her sense of psychology and sensitivity to good use.

In the time of her childhood

One evening on the radio, a young girl, Talulah (played by Noée Abita), 18 years old, lost, comes to testify. Touched by this bird who has fallen from the nest and has nowhere to sleep, Elisabeth offers to take her in, in her building, under the roofs. Talulah quickly became friends with Matthias and Judith, teenagers almost her own age, and taught them how to sneak into the cinema, where they discovered a Rohmer film together by chance, “The Nights of the Full Moon”. Of course, Matthias can’t help but fall for the fragile and liberated young girl, a sort of double of the actress Pascale Ogier, who disappears without warning, only to reappear years later, even more lost.

With this film, Mikhaël Hers (who had notably shot “Amanda”, with Vincent Lacoste) wanted to go back to the time of his childhood, reconstructing it with sets and costumes, and using archival images of the Paris of the 80s, thus reminding us how much it was another time. A separation, a love story, teenagers becoming adults, a mother having to make her own way, the director chronicles ordinary events. But there is little interest in this intimate story, “Passengers of the night” is bored during the day, and bores us, with the defects of a certain French cinema d’auteur, navel-gazing, Parisian, talkative, and long-winded. Nothing else than the banality of a life that passes, even if it was certainly the good times.

Patrick TARDIT

“Les passagers de la nuit”, a film by Mikhaël Hers, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg (out May 4).

A separation, a love story, teenagers becoming adults... the director chronicles ordinary events in the life of a family.
A separation, a love story, teenagers becoming adults… the director chronicles ordinary events in the life of a family.