Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
When family man Pierre moves from the day shift to the night shift of a French provincial glass factory, he is singled out by a fellow worker for special treatment. At first the taunting resembles the typical hazing of a newcomer, but the harassment soon increases in intensity, moving toward violence. This psychological thriller pits a straightforward, though slightly goofy-looking, worker against a loose cannon…
The film’s genius lies in the way it repeatedly confuses the viewer as to the players’ truest intentions. The undercurrent of unease becomes stronger as over and over again Pierre is convinced Fred has changed his ways; and then apparently genuine honesty and tenderness once more degenerate into threats of physical violence.
While persuading everyone that Pierre is his friend, Fred takes every opportunity to crush him. It’s no wonder that Pierre is pushed to the brink of insanity. Night Shift has a homoerotic, even sadomasochistic subtext. Based on a true story, this grim character study – with no frills and no stars – packs enough tension and emotion to keep the suspense building straight through to the teeth-gritting climax. — Seattle Film Festival 2001
A gripping psychological drama played out between two workers in the grim environs of a provincial French factory, Night Shift packs more tension and emotional punch than many grandstanding commercial thrillers… Barbé gives a performance of simmering, scarcely contained physical threat, punctuated by moments of apparent honesty and tenderness, that motors the drama. When he’s off-screen, the viewer breathes a sigh of relief; when he’s around, the film exudes a tangible undercurrent of unease… Adding further power is the totally naturalistic way in which the drama -- inspired by a true news story ten years ago – is presented. Le Guay has said he sees the film almost as a traditional, good sheriff vs. bad guy western but, aside from the climactic sequence, played out in the surrounding woods, there’s little sense of artifice in either performances or structure.
Casting of surrounding roles is impeccable, with young Le Roy highly believable as the impressionable son and Mouchel a repository of quiet, loving strength as Pierre’s unfazed wife. — Derek Elley, Variety, 1/4/01