Grand Central (2013): Zlotowski’s Romance in Nuclear Plant, Starring Lea Seydoux and Tahar Rahim

grand_central_1A passionate romance, unfolding within a nuclear plant, is at the center of Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grant Central, which world-premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Fest in the series of Un Certain Regard.

As expected, the affair gets extra intensity due to the unusual locale, a power plant, not to mention the fact that the object of desire is a woman formally engaged to another man.  Thus, in moments, Grant Central is overwrought, but the writers, Zlotowski and Gaelle Mace, have shaped an original narrative and the kid of protagonists seldom seen on the big screen.

grand_central_3The tale is replete with constant alarm, deep fear (you never know what might happen next), and occasionally giddiness.  The characters convince (and delude) themselves that radiation and sickness, both likely to happen, is like being courted and missed in public by a beautiful femme.

The great French actor Tahar Rahim gives a compelling performance as Gary, an unschooled McJobber who takes a job as a decontamination sub-contractor, moving from one reactor to the next. The employees are placed at makeshift campsites, where Gary begins an ill-starred affair with Karole (Léa Seydoux), the fiancee of a co-worker (Denis Menochet).

grand_central_2As director, Zlotowski is effective at evoking a working class milieu, populated by blue-collar workers with limited working opportunities, forced to experience life-risking situations on a daily basis.

Zlotowski’s film is most effective when it’s starkly realistic, when it depicts in detail the lifestyle of its everyday heroes.  There is an extra-pressure on the employees to keep their level of radiation way down or else risk being laid off.

In one of the film’s most harrowing scenes, a woman is seen dragged into the green zone, with her body doused and her head shaved.  Ambiguity prevails: The woman is naturally sobbing, and we are left to wonder whether she is scared of dying or of losing her job.


Running Time: 94 Minutes

Director: Rebecca Zlotowski

Cinematography: George Lechaptois


Lea Seydoux

Olivier Gourmet

Tahar Rahim