Clémence (Isabelle Huppert) is a soon to be retired mayor of a small, French town outside of Paris. Together with her Chief of Staff, Yazid (Reda Kateb), Clémence is faced with the choice of becoming a Minister in Paris or following the path already set out in front of her.

Despite its seemingly uninteresting plot, Les Promesses explores more complex issues, albeit very subtly. Dialogue pertaining to poverty, refugee asylum, and slum lord corruption all permeate throughout the stories narrative. These are all real-world issues and director/writer Thomas Kruithof and co-writer Jean-Baptiste Delafon explore these intricacies with ease. Clémence’s battle to restore the derelict housing complexes across her jurisdiction are rooted in good intentions yet, like all political actions, slightly rooted in self-interest. However, Kruithof and Delafon dilute this self-interest by making sure Huppert and Kateb have a wealthy amount of chances to show off their acting chops and insert some heart into the overall narrative.

On the topic of performances, Huppert and Kateb are by far the best thing about Les Promesses. Huppert’s portrayal of a driven yet flawed politician on paper may sound derivative but in practice, really shone bright. Similarly, Kateb inserts much needed heart into the political drama that without, would cause this films narrative to fall flat.

Les Promesses boasts impressive performances and timely messaging. While seemingly simple in design, through careful directing and deliberate writing, Les Promesses stands above other political dramas as worth the watch and worth the time.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed on September 8, 2021 – La Biennale di Venezia (screener provided by publicist). Rating: TBC. Running time: 98 min.

PRODUCTION: (FR) A France 2 Cinéma production. Producers: Thibault Gast, Matthias Weber, and David Giordano.

CREW: Director: Thomas Kruithof. Writers: Jean-Baptiste Delafon and Thomas Kruithof . Editing: Jean-Baptiste Beaudoin. Music: Gregoire Auger. Cinematography: Alex Lamarque.

CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Reda Kateb, Naidra Ayadi, Jean-Paul Bordes, Mustapha Abourachid, Soufiane Guerrab, Hervé Pierre, Laurent Poitrenaux, Walid Afkir, Vincent Garanger, Christian Benedetti, Anne Loiret, Mama Prassinos, Youssouf Wague, Gauthier Battoue, Bruno Georis, Stefan Crepon, and Rosita Fernandez.

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