Directed by Philippe Le Guay, starring Marc Barbe and Gerald Laroche.
A gripping but frustrating psychological thriller, 'Night Shift' centers around the twisted working relationship between Pierre (Laroche) – a friendly and sincere family man – and Fred (Barbe) – a psychologically complex and disturbed bully.
Dramatic tension is present right from the beginning with the men's initial encounter at a bottle factory in provincial France when Pierre changes to the night shift in order to earn more money for his family. There are pictures of naked women hanging inside his new work locker but, just as he starts to tear them down, Fred confronts him and teases Pierre about his sexuality. On the same day, Fred pours a bucket of water over Pierre, laughing it off as a prank played on all new staff members. Taking it in good spirit, the friendly newcomer soon learns that these incidents are set to continue.
After a series of humiliating bullying incidents, Pierre's passive resistance turns to infuriating anger. When he finally confronts Fred at his apartment, Pierre momentarily takes on new and more admirable persona, demanding respect rather than pity. This feeling of respect doesn't last long, however, as Pierre is easily duped by Fred once again. As a viewer, the scene is infuriating. One can't help but feel like shaking Pierre to his senses.
As a complex drama about bullying and the nature of the bully, 'Night Shift' is an uncomfortable cinematic experience. Fred is not a clear-cut villain. He has a softer side to his otherwise vindictive personality that can be identified when he nurses Pierre's son. Equally, Pierre's is not the typical hero. His efforts to understand Fred, although admirable, are bordering on the pathetic at times. This is uncomfortable for any audience who feel compelled to side wholeheartedly with the good guy.
There is no real satisfying resolution in 'Night Shift' and this, in itself, generates genuine frustration for any viewer but perhaps this is the point. How often do bullies get what they deserve in real life? Food for thought, no doubt.