© Weltkino Filmverleih

Die Gewerkschafterin (The Sitting Duck, La syndicaliste)
France/Germany 2022

Opening 27 Apr 2023

Directed by: Jean-Paul Salomé
Writing credits: Fadette Drouard, Caroline Michel-Aguirre, Jean-Paul Salomé
Principal actors: Isabelle Huppert, Grégory Gadebois, François-Xavier Demaison, Pierre Deladonchamps, Alexandra Maria Lara

Based on French investigative journalist Caroline Michel-Aguirre’s eponymous book, director Jean-Paul Salomé’s stellar ensemble recreate one whistleblower’s chilling nightmare. The legendary Isabelle Huppert plays Maureen Kearney, the prominent trade unionist. Salomé’s co-written screenplay with Fadette Drouard carefully reconstructs events leading up to "l’agression" and, even more bizarre its aftermath. Eventually, Kearney’s Irishness triggers her stubborn tenacity to fight back.

In 2012, Kearney is Secretary General of CFDT—one of France’s largest unions—European Works Council at Areva, a multinational group specializing in nuclear power. Representing over 45,000 employees she is fearless, calculating, equivocal, and gutsy protecting workers’ rights, and if necessary, manipulative. She meets regularly with CEOs, politicians; she is cautiously approached, then meets Tirésias (Christian Hecq) whose information regards EDF, France’s state-owned electric grid, Areva, and a Chinese nuclear company. Kearny’s outspokenness provokes Areva’s president (Yvan Attal) and annoys corporate big-wigs and ministers. Her husband (Gregory Gadebois) and daughter (Mara Taquin) are drawn in; Maureen is threatened. Home alone, a masked intruder brutally assaults and disfigures her. Police protection is ordered, Maureen is medically checked, forensics are collected/tested. The French media are in a frenzy. Adjutant-chef Nicolas Brémont (Pierre Deladonchamps, [You Will Not Have My Hate,2022]) leads the investigation. An unfounded twist provokes a reversal of sentiment. After five painful years Maureen receives the 2017 court’s verdict. Traumatized Maureen gets help, and then a top-class lawyer and returns to court.

The supporting cast portrayal of Salomé’s fleshed out characters adds depth and temperament: Olivier Loustau, Christophe Paou, Bernard Gabay, Alexandra Maria Lara et al. More pre-2012 background, particularly about Kearney, would have been useful toward audiences’ understanding. Bruno Coulais’s score boosts the mood and tone; Julien Hirsch’s cinematography, and Valérie Deseine and Aïn Varet’s editing is good. The German subtitles are, regrettably, often too fast, and hard to read using white font on the many white backgrounds. Die Gewerkschafterin might be another sorry episode in vilifying whistleblowers, except for the resilient avenging angel. (Marinell Haegelin)

The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.