Laurent Cantet’s ‘The Workshop’ (L’Atelier) is set in La Ciotat in Southern France, near Marseilles. The shipping town has seen better days, and now the town sees itself catering to rich folks who park their yachts in their marinas. We see a group of young people taking a writing workshop, under the tutelage of Olivia, a famous novelist who leads them to write a collaborative story. Marina Fois’ Olivia is a city girl, a Parisian, and in the beginning we see the kids making fun of the way she speaks – fast, urgent, cosmopolitan. These kids are a cross-section of kids nowadays : of different ethnic descent, liberal, slightly bitter about the hands they are dealt with. One of the young men in the group, Antoine (Matthieu Lucci) is a provocateur – he disagrees with the other kids maybe for just the sake of being a contrarian, or maybe he really does believe what he is spouting? We don’t really get to find out exactly how he feels until the end, and even then I wasn’t so sure. This is a kid who watches alt-right speeches while doing sit ups, so I don’t really know whether to take him that seriously.
This is a thought provoking film, and curiously could be a story about anywhere in the world, as we see society getting more and more divided by the day. I thought the character of Antoine was fascinating, and Lucci is appealing in that dangerous/sexy/scary/infuriating kind of way. I bet he becomes a big star. There’s enough talk here that will make you pause and ponder, and may want to question what you think you believe in.