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DRIFT AWAY / ALBATROS (2021, FR)

This observational, naturalistic drama by the experienced Xavier Beauvois (Of Gods and Men) promised much more at the beginning than it delivered in the end. The premiere of “Drift Away” or “Albatross” in the original was shown in the main program of the festival in Berlin, and in the foreground is policeman Laurent Sandrail (the good Jeremie Renier) from a provincial coastal town whose best days are far behind. He plans to marry Marie, with whom he has been in a relationship for a long time and with whom he has a daughter, and one day his life will turn into complete chaos when he accidentally shoots a farmer who was threatening to commit suicide. That pivotal event happens almost halfway through the film, and then, strangely enough, this hitherto exceptional observational drama begins to fall.

Before that, Beauvois brilliantly builds a story that is at the same time an intimate story about a policeman who will lose control at one point, but also an observational drama about life in such a provincial town in trouble. Beauvious brilliantly shows all the problems of rural French society in these parts and it is clear to us that it is a story that is more reminiscent of stories from our regions than those from Paris and other large French cities. The police don’t have many problems with crime and we see in the great beginning that their main problem is suicides who often take their own lives by throwing themselves off a cliff. There is no serious crime here, and practically everyone knows everything.

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The farmers there are in particular trouble, including Laurent’s friend Julien, who is stuck in debt, and the bureaucratic measures from Brussels are driving him crazy. All other small farmers from that region are in a similar situation, and there is a large number of suicides among farmers. At one point, Julien will run away from the farm, and when Laurent and his partner find him, he will threaten suicide. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, Laurent will shoot him in the leg to stop him, but it will turn out that the wound is fatal. The policeman who had good intentions will now find himself not only facing a potential prison sentence, but also in a serious existential crisis.

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The life that seemed to him to be finally in order, will completely fall apart in just one moment, and “Albatross” will then turn into a slow, characterful, intimate study of a man who is questioning his life and his actions. The Albatross is called a small model of a sailboat that Laurent inherited from his late grandfather, a fisherman, and going to sea and a kind of return to his roots will also be an attempt to find meaning again for him. It is an extremely slow-paced film that requires a lot of attention, more of an internal than an external drama about how life can be completely turned upside down in one moment.

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