"Human Resources" usually refers to the department that deals with employee relations (i.e. where they hire and fire them), but taken literally it also means dealing with the resources that make us human. This powerful French film, directed by Laurent Cantet, clearly means to use the term ironically with a slight leaning toward the latter definition.
Frank (Jalil Lespert) comes home from a business College to work a summer internship in the management office with the same company that employs his father (Jean-Claude Vallod) who is a factory worker there. Right from the start, Human Resources sets up the contentious scenario of father versus son, but it's a credit to the intelligence of the script, by Laurent Cantet and Gilles Marchand, that it doesn't follow a plot line that you would expect it to.
At first, it marches along a predictable path. Frank impresses the boss and immediately is offered a position in the company. His father -- who has worked for 30 years in the factory -- is proud of him even though it means that they will be pitched on either side of the worker/management divide.
Frank not only has good management skills but he helps the company by coming up with a plan to implement a 35-hour work week. But what Frank doesn't realize is that the boss is using his ideas to get good leverage against the union, which opposes the plan, and to justify layoffs.
Human Resources takes a dramatic turn when Frank learns that, with his crafty factory-downsizing plan, his father may be in line to lose his job. Now he is faced with a moral dilemma: should he stick with management or should he help his father and the workers - which means supporting the union and certainly losing his new job?
Adding to the difficulty of the decision is that Frank's father -- a stubbornly quiet man who has sacrificed his life for the success of his son -- cares more about his son working for management than he does about losing a job that he's had all his life. Adding another wrinkle to the drama is that the father is unwilling to join the union and fight for himself.
Director/writer Laurent Cantet said in an interview, "The title Human Resources is a reaction against the cynicism of that expression. A human being is administered the same way you would administer stocks or capital. I wanted to play on that double meaning and go beyond coded administrative lingo in order to talk about an actual human's resources." He succeeds very well. And one of the ways he keeps the drama powerfully convincing is because he doesn't manipulate the high drama with music (the movie has no score) or with bogus melodrama. Also, unlike many leftist filmmakers, he doesn't clearly draw lines making the workers saintly liberals and the management demonic conservatives. He is more interested in the human drama that develops between the father and the son and because of this the film becomes a very emotionally effective working-class drama.
The DVD looks good but otherwise is unexceptional because it has no extras. Still, the film is a highly recommended.
Aka Ressources humaines.