If fictions too focused on the transmission of their political message can be lacking in the entertainment department, this is far from the case with the first feature film by Pier-Philippe Chevigny.

By using a refined direction and thanks to its high level cast and its meticulous script, Richelieu succeeds in making an impression, in sensitizing the public and keeping it in suspense. It is a success all along the line, an important film from which we come out better informed in addition to having had an excellent time at the cinema.

Freshly separated from her husband and back in her hometown, Ariane (Ariane Castellanos) is the new French-Spanish interpreter at a food processing plant that hires Guatemalan workers. Over the days of work, she befriends the temporary workers, then undertakes a daily resistance to defend them from the exploitation of which they are victims.

The photographic direction of Gabriel Brault-Tardif skilfully immerses us in everyday life with the help of several sequence shots, tight frames and nervous movements, characteristic of factory work. The rigorous research – Chevigny traveled to Guatemala with the actress Ariane Castellanos to collect numerous testimonies – manifests itself both in the micro details of the text and in the most striking dramatic scenes.

Those intense scenes don’t abound either, and that’s good. Chevigny never falls into melodrama, thanks to his obvious qualities as an observer of power relations. We are in the subtlety and the nuance, which serves the purpose very well and allows to largely understand the problem in a short time. Nevertheless, the sequence where one of the workers, Manuel Morales (Nelson Coronado), finds himself badly affected by his working conditions, muscular, freezes the blood and grabs all the attention.

And let’s mention the cast, which does full justice to this achievement. It is partly thanks to her performance, particularly the acting of Ariane Castellanos and Nelson Coronado, that the full force of the film unfolds. Their touching complicity adds a pinch of sweetness to this story that is more difficult than joyful.

Marc-André Grondin is effective in the role of Stéphane, the brittle and inflexible boss. His performance, while not standout, does a good job of capturing this skillfully written character, who, if you look at the details, is far from just a tyrannical ruler. Subject to the authority of senior management, he probably experienced the vagaries of blue-collar work himself before assuming this role of power.

We can’t wait to see what Pier-Philippe Chevigny has in store for Quebec cinema, because his signature as a director certainly has the potential to serve social justice. Like what it is not only the documentary that can be engaged.