In Zero Fucks Given (or Rien à foutre for the Francophiles among us), directors-writers Julie Lecoustre and Emmanuel Marre take us along on one woman’s figurative flight towards the inevitable. Everyone grieves differently and in their own time. Some of us, though, postpone this necessary process by any means necessary. Such is the case with Cassandre, a young flight attendant who took to the skies, we eventually learn, to escape the familial trauma left by her mother’s death in a road accident.
The magnetic Adèle Exarchopoulos plays Cassandre. If her decade-defining part in Blue is the Warmest Color didn’t exactly result in her taking the cinematic world by storm, her role here is a reminder of just how captivating she can be. Cassandre begins as a floundering twenty-something relishing in her job’s perks of free travel and fancy hotel stays. Eventually, though, she shows cracks, struggling with her job performance and becoming distant from her colleagues, much like an individual dealing with latent sadness would. Exarchopoulos disappears into her role, never allowing the audience to question the character’s authenticity.
Zero Fucks Given is surprisingly detailed about the inner workings of the airline service industry. While many might not find the daily flight operations particularly interesting, it’s hard not to be shocked at the more misogynist requirements involved in her line of work. An unspoken recommendation for clean-shaven legs and the physical traits a certain foreign airline all but mandate for their cabin crews are bound to trigger some. Of course, there’s an argument to be made that these additions are unnecessary to the overall narrative development. Still, at the very least, the plight of these blue-collar workers in the service industry helps us to have increased empathy for the lead’s desperation.
“…took to the skies…to escape the familial trauma left by her mother’s death in a road accident.”
At around the halfway point, Cassandre violates company policy regarding in-flight purchases, forcing her to be grounded as she waits for a transfer. This stops the near-constant bacchanalian exploits abruptly at nightclubs and prodigious Tinder. She subsequently returns home to Belgium while she waits for her new assignment. This allows Lecoustre and Marre to introduce us to Cassandre’s sister and father. While undoubtedly necessary for the plot, the momentum comes to a screeching halt at this point in the film. It’s not that most of the sequences with her family aren’t affecting, but they just are not as fun as what proceeded it.
This portion feels like an entirely different movie at parts, and perhaps the filmmakers would have been better served shortening these segments. But if we extrapolate the overarching theme of a woman putting off her grief, the choice adds an additional layer of realism because this emotional avoidance can only happen for so long. I just wish they could have carried over some of the kinetic energy we were privy to previously.
Zero Fucks Given, through Exarchopoulos’s performance, is an impressively unique take on a world we haven’t seen much of. The drama is a powerful examination of the many forms of grief. Without Exarchopoulos, though, this would have been a banal flight in coach, but thanks to her work, it is akin to a Business Class upgrade.
"…the drama is akin to a Business Class upgrade."