By Sophie Squire
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Between Two Worlds—cleaners kept marginalised in more ways than one

Between Two Worlds wants to tell a story of cleaners—but the lead character, a journalist, gets in the way
Issue 2809
Juliette Binoche as Marianne, dressed as a cleaner, in Between Two Worlds

Juliette Binoche as Marianne in Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds, directed by Emmanuel Carrere, is a film about precarious work but also about how divisions of class can create a gulf between people. Marianne, played by Juliette Binoche, is an undercover writer who sets out to write a book about precarious work in the French town of Caen. Her story is based on the writings of journalist Florence Aubenas.

In the same way Aubenas did, Marianne invents a story about being left by her husband and moving to a town where she knows no one. What Marianne uncovers while taking up cleaning caravans is a reality known to many millions.

She’s overworked, underpaid, constantly tired, bullied and abused. But, of course, Marianne can go home at any time. And while the Between Two Worlds is good at showing the harsh realities of precarious work, it leaves you uneasy.

Marianne’s deception becomes more and more uncomfortable as Between Two Worlds progresses. She forms genuine friendships with the cleaners she initially saw as subjects. 

Her dishonesty at their expense so that she can “understand” the lives of the poor feels like a betrayal.  But largely, Marianne is presented as a very sympathetic character in Between Two Worlds.

And in the process of centring someone who lies about being a precarious worker as the lead, the lives of those who are get lost. Between Two Worlds would be much more interesting if it followed cleaning worker and mother of three, Christele, played by a brilliant Helene Lambert, who befriends Marianne.

Stories about the lives of precarious workers need to be told and Between Two Worlds gives it a good go. But it would feel more authentic if their own voices were centre stage.

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