A solidly crafted, poignantly acted drama based on a real-life case, “The Thief of Saint Lubin” deals with universal issues of poverty and injustice. A powerful performance from Dominique Blanc as a single mother prosecuted for shoplifting should ensure fest bookings and tube slots for this small but distinguished pic.
Francoise Barnier can barely make ends meet. The mother of two daughters abandoned by their father, she lives in low-rent accommodations a distance from Rennes and works as cleaner at a meat-processing factory, fiercely determined not to rely on welfare although it would pay more than her job. She makes a point of paying bills on time, with the result that there’s no money left for decent meals for her girls, who are surviving on a diet of pasta.
One day, shopping in the supermarket and overcome by the cheerful promotion of all the things she can’t afford, she steals some packages of meat, is caught and prosecuted. At the initial trial, encouraged by her lawyer, she makes an impassioned speech about her situation; the judge (a woman) acquits her. But a journalist in the court makes an issue of the lenient treatment meted out to a thief and the case is scheduled for retrial, amid considerable local publicity.
Director and co-scripter Claire Devers is obviously angered by the injustice inherent in a system that almost encourages the breaking of the law. The pic wears its heart on its sleeve, but there will be few who won’t respond to the plight of the protagonist, or to Blanc’s heartfelt performance. (At the pic’s end, the actress and her real-life counterpart are filmed as they meet.)
Technical credits are on the modest side, but this is a film of emotions, not visual slickness.