Directed by Laurent Cantet. Starring Aurélien Recoing, Karin Viard, Serge Livrozet and Nicolas Kalsch.

Vincent (Recoing) is an apparently overworked businessman, spending much of his time on the road between snatched weekends with his wife and children. However, as is made plain from the film's outset, all is not what it seems. Vincent, the audience learns, actually lost his job a few weeks prior to the moment where the narrative begins...

'Time Out' is a meticulous tracing of its protagonist's daily routine: an elaborately constructed lie, which gradually, and inevitably, begins to spiral out of control.

Anchored by a masterful central performance, this is a movie that explores one man's mental flight from his middle class, 'ordinary', existence. As Vincent fills his days with aimless driving and scribbling in notebooks, his ability to negotiate the familiar roles of son, husband and father becomes compromised.

Matters take a sinister turn when the necessity of obtaining money begins to occupy the foreground. However, in keeping with the low-key pace of the film, there is no dramatic descent into a criminal underworld, but rather a series of uneasy encounters with unwitting former friends and associates. For a man desperate to be significant in the world, Vincent's villainy proves to be of the remarkably unspectacular variety.

Recoing manages to convey the full spectrum of the hero's emotions, from pride to shame, through hurt, resentment and anger with the subtlest of gestures. Fleeting moments of pleasure, usually found in the most banal, but purposeful, of tasks, are equally well portrayed. The satellite characters, from the concerned wife (Viard), to the adolescent son (Kalsch) and the shady new business partner (Livrozet), are also handled with considerable skill. Naturalistic acting, continually underplaying the drama, serves to heighten the various tensions throughout.

Cantet has directed a carefully measured piece of work that evolves into a case study of denial. As Vincent persists in lying to himself, or at least in refusing to face the reality of his situation, the viewer is drawn into the intricacies of his double, or perhaps more precisely, half life. An ambiguous conclusion provides a fitting end to a tale about a man more vague than calculating and essentially more ordinary than he appears willing to accept.

Siobhán Mannion