Grand Central, 2013.
Directed by Rebecca Zlotowski.
Starring Léa Seydoux, Tahar Rahim, Denis Menochet, Olivier Gourmet and Nozha Khouadra.
A man desperate for work, takes a job at a nuclear power station. He finds money, love and danger.
Grand Central follows the story of Gary (Tahar Rahim), a young man who has obviously known trouble in the past, looking for a new future and some good money at the nuclear power plant. A loner who has been shunned by his grandmother and sister for undisclosed previous misdemeanours, Gary is keen not to fail as he embarks on his training programme. He quickly forms friends with his team, made up of two fellow rookies and the experienced men Toni (Denis Menochet) and Gilles (Olivier Gourmet). This group of men and women from the plant live in a trailer park and include Karole (Léa Seydoux) and Maria (Nozha Khouadra). Karole is Toni’s bride to be, but that doesn’t stop her from kisssing Gary in front of the gang. Her kiss, she explains, was to help Gary to comprehend what working at the plant is like: you experience fear, worry, dizziness and weakness at the knees. But that kiss is merely the overture to their affair. As Gary begins working at the plant, he is taking dangerous risks that are not all radioactive but which can result in seriously dangerous fallout.
Although we have seen the same format in previous films throughout the years (boy makes friends, does a dangerous job in which his life depends on his crew and falls in love with his best friend’s girl), the setting of a nuclear power plant is a new one. Rarely do audiences see inside these plants and not since The China Syndrome have we been made to think about the consequences of these stations on our safety and our environment. Chernobyl and Fukushima are mentioned jokingly, one of the rookies earning the nickname Cherno, but working in this plant is no laughing matter. On what appears to be an all too regular basis, workers are exposed to dangerous levels of radioactivity.
In one scene, Gary risks his own life to save that of Toni. In another, Maria is exposed to so much radiation that she is stripped, scrubbed and shaved before being sent home. These are terrifying scenes, as is the sound of the warning sirens. Karole explains: four is a drill, five is worrying, six is serious and seven…
Grand Central is a chilling reminder of how we create our energy and how much we are prepared to risk in order to produce it. Yet it is also a complex love story and a comment on the people who run these plants. We are never introduced to the higher powers, who earn more and risk less. As Gary gets further embroiled in his relationship with Karole, he is prepared to take more risks in order to be near her. Tahar Rahim carries the film, but is admirably supported by the rest of the cast. Grand Central is a terrifying and cautionary tale.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Jo Ann Titmarsh