The Workshop (2017) sends a muddled and confusing message

by Martin Hafer

The French film, The Workshop, is a difficult film for me to review.  On one hand, I appreciated that it dared to address some important social issues facing the country and many other countries.  But, on the other, the message seems confusing and will likely leave many viewers wondering what the picture was trying to say…or, if it was trying to say anything at all.

The story is set in a small town which is experiencing hard times.  The local shipyard was closed long ago and there is a sense of malaise over the place.  Because of this, it’s surprising that a published author like Olivia (Marina Fois) would come all the way here to teach a summer course on creative writing.  Seven students have signed up for the class and its freestyle structure leads to these young adults revealing who they are and what they think during the discussions.

Several of the students are defensive because they are Muslims and the class is working on a murder mystery…and they don’t want the characters or story to come off as anti-Muslim.  But one of the students, a loner named Antoine (Matthieu Lucci) seems to take pleasure out of baiting his fellow students and bucking the group-think that has been established in the class.  Over time, Olivia begins to worry that Antoine actually might harbor real fantasies of murder…and his social media account and that of his friends seem to indicate this is a real possibility.  The story, at this point, is pretty interesting and I was hooked.

Unfortunately, the teacher’s actions and Antoine’s from this point on are unpredictable, often confusing and really left me wondering what the message was supposed to be in the picture.  In other words, it all seemed to fall apart at the end and left some of the viewers baffled.  It’s all a shame, as there really are some interesting story elements and it could have been better.

Martin’s Grade: C