Magazine article Screen International

'Number One': Toronto Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Number One': Toronto Review

Article excerpt

Emmanuelle Devos plays an executive who is head-hunted to be the first woman CEO on France’s CAC 40 in a lively and suspenseful drama

Number One

Dir/co-scr: Tonie Marshall. France- Belgium. 2017. 110mins

Wielding an entertainingly sharp narrative scalpel throughout incident-rich Number One, (Numero Une) Tonie Marshall posits that women getting promoted solely on merit is a quaint notion. Set during the year separating the 2016 and 2017 editions of the annual Women’s Forum held in the Normandy town of Deauville, this lively and suspenseful ensemble film features a wonderfully modulated turn from Emmanuelle Devos as engineer, executive, wife and mother Emmanuelle Blachey who is head-hunted by a club of ultra-accomplished women to jockey for the about-to-open top spot at a world-class water company - something she would never have thought of or attempted on her own.

There’s a genuine aura of intrigue in high places and we get to eavesdrop

Ready-made for arguments and think pieces about ambition and the status of women in the workplace, this is the kind of snappy tale with contemporary relevance that should go over very nicely with non-French viewers.

Well-connected no-nonsense Adrienne Postel-Devaux (Francine Bergé, fantastic) presides over a close-knit circle of impressive can-do women. Adrienne knows that the head of one of France’s most important firms is seriously ill and has not anointed a successor. She also knows that silent power brokers will be pushing their favorite candidates and not one of them will be female.

Adrienne and her closest associates - future president of the group Vera Jacob (Suzanne Clement) and Claire Dormoy (Anne Azoulay, terrific) who heads her own PR firm - think Emmanuelle has what it takes to become the first woman CEO of a company on France’s CAC 40 stock market index. She’s amused and flattered but not interested. Her current responsibilities, which are considerable, suit her.

Blachey not only speaks fluent Chinese - which puts her male superiors and colleagues at an uncomfortable (for them) disadvantage - but she knows how to deploy strategy in their native language when working with important Chinese business partners. But some condescending developments on the French side spur Emmanuelle to consider jumping ship.

Because aiming for the new position wasn’t Emmanuelle’s own idea, her doubts and bouts of ambivalence are that much more interesting. …

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