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Juliette Binoche shines as a writer caught between honesty and authenticity in director Emmanuel Carrère’s compelling drama Between Two Worlds. Based on the non-fiction book by French journalist Florence Aubenas, the film explores what happens when an undercover writer with the best of intentions about sharing the realities of working-class life gets closer to her subjects than she planned, threatening both her objectivity and her connection to the community she’s come to feel a part of.

Marianne (Binoche) comes to the French port city of Ouistreham, near Caen, to get a first-hand look at the precarious economic conditions faced by many of its residents. Pretending to be a divorcee re-entering the workforce after 20-plus years as a homemaker, the best job she can find with her lack of experience is as a low-paid hourly cleaner. It’s hard and largely thankless, but the bright spot is the people she meets on the job. They’re warm and welcoming, helping her with everything from transportation to finding supplemental work cleaning the large passenger ferries based out of Ouistreham.

It’s while working on the ferry crew that Marianne gets close to Christèle (Hélène Lambert), a somewhat cynical single mother of three whose prickliness masks a heartbreaking vulnerability. Marianne comes to love Christèle and her sons, as well as her young, optimistic co-worker Marilou (Léa Carne) — but can the relationships Marianne has established while gathering material for her book survive if her new friends realize the truth of who she is and what she’s doing?

There are no easy answers in Between Two Worlds. Good intentions don’t put money in your pocket or food on the table, and friendship is a luxury not everyone has time for — making it all the more painful when you let someone in and it doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. Newcomer Lambert, who makes her film acting debut in the film, conveys Christèle’s complex emotions beautifully, more than holding her own against veteran Binoche. Carrère directs them both to excellent performances, giving Between Two Worlds real emotional heft.– Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Leslie Combemale Between Two Worlds (titled Ouistreham when originally released in France) is based on the award-winning exposé Le Quai de Ouistreham by journalist Florence Aubenas. Juliette Binoche plays the fictionalized version of Aubenas, who spent time living as a cleaning lady aboard the ferry that goes between Ouistreham and Portsmouth. The film really captures the level of hard labor women often have to endure at minimum wage (or less) around the world. Making 60 beds in an hour and a half? Dealing with exploitative employers and the constant risk of being fired? All that is brought to life by Binoche (who was nominated for a César for her portrayal) and her costar Hélène Lambert, who is a particular standout as the young mother trying to get by, while still having a life, doing backbreaking menial work.

Pam Grady: Juliette Binoche stars in this drama adapted from Florence Aubenas’ non-fiction book focused on uncovering the inequalities in France’s gig economy. Renamed Marianne in the film, Binoche portrays the journalist going undercover as a cleaner, growing close to struggling single mom Christèle (Hélène Lambert) even as she continues to lie to the woman about her true identity. Binoche and Lambert (in her screen debut) are fantastic as well as the rest of largely non-professional supporting cast, but Emmauel Carrère’s film carries with it a whiff of condescension toward the very people it is supposedly championing. By placing the journalist front and center in the story rather than people who are her subjects, the film emphasizes that not only is Marianne able to quit this hardscrabble existence at any time, when she walks away it will be to a life of comfort and security, while her subjects remain in their dead-end lives, used once again – this time by someone convinced she is doing them a solid.

Nell Minow: New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm famously said, “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.” Between Two Worlds asks us to consider, as its central character does, whether it is ethical to tell a lie in search of the truth. Juliette Binoche gives a sensitive performance as a journalist who goes undercover to write about the people at the bottom of the economic hierarchy, crushed by neglect, bureaucracy, and a skewed economic system that squeezes out decent jobs.

Nikki Fowler: Emmanuel Carrère’s French drama Between Two Worlds, adapted from the bestselling non-fiction book The Night Cleaner, is a gentle introduction to the hardships faced by the underprivileged wage workers amongst Northern France’s impoverished unemployed who have no choice but to take grueling jobs cleaning bathrooms, water ferries and other various public spaces despite some of them possessing past professional career accolades. Read more.

Jennifer Merin Between Two Worlds is an immersive dramatic delve into issues of privilege, workplace conditions, collegiality and friendship among women. Juliet Binoche stars as a well-to-do journalist who goes undercover to explore, experience and write about the lives of working class women who serve as a team of per diem gig hire cleaners who change linens and scrub toilets on a passenger ship between cruises. Adapted from French journalist Florence Aubenas’ nonfiction Le Quai de Ouistreham, the script — a collaboration between Aubenas, director Emmanuel Carrere and Helene Devynck — tells the women’s stories, reveals their responsibilities and dreams, and captures their attitudes with unequivocal authenticity. Performances by the brilliant Binoche and ensemble are thoroughly engaging. And the theme is — with labor negotiations currently in movie industry news — timely and gently provocative.

Loren King Juliette Binoche is such a consummate actor that she can easily blend into an ensemble as well as emerge the charismatic star. That’s exactly the task she has in Between Two Worlds, an absorbing French drama about a journalist who embeds herself with mostly all-women cleaning crew in order to understand the trap of low-wage labor from the inside. It’s exactly what late, great American writer Barbara Ehrenreich did for her now classic work Nickel and Dimed. Director Emmanuel Carrere’s Gallic version has Binoche’s Marianne Winckler taking a job as a cleaner in order to report on the dire state of low wage employment in Northern France. Read more.

Sandie Angulo Chen: Juliette Binoche gives a remarkable performance in Between Two Worlds, a French drama based on journalist Florence Aubenas’ best-selling nonfiction book Le Quai de Ouistreham. Posing as a for-hire cleaning technician, Binoche’s reporter character Marianne hopes to tell the story of underpaid women who work for minimum wage without benefits or full-time contracts in the port city of Caen. It’s a story reminiscent of those told by Barbara Ehrenreich – about the difficulties of making ends meet, of dreaming for enough money for rent, a car, children’s clothes, essentials. It’s a powerful film about the least visible members of the global workforce.

Liz Whittemore The organic chemistry between Hélène Lambert and Juliette Binoche immediately pulls the audience into this nuanced charade. You cannot help but fall in love with their relationship, all the while waiting for the other shoe to drop. Between Two Worlds is a complex commentary on class. It pulls at your heartstrings while putting privilege in the hot seat. Simply put, it is outstanding storytelling.

Cate MarquisJuliette Binoche stars as a prosperous writer who goes undercover to research her next non-fiction book, an expose of the exploitative working conditions of northern French people near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, in director Emmanuel Carrère’s Between Two Worlds. Marianne (Binoche) poses as a divorced job seeker with a thin work history who is only offered part-time, minimum-wage jobs as a cleaner. She joins the ranks of other poor women, and some men, unable to find full-time work who are forced to cobble together a bare living doing several of these hard, unpleasant jobs. Eventually, Marianne finds herself in one of the worst, cleaning the ferry that runs between France and Britain. Based on the non-fiction book Le Quai de Ouistreham, Juliette Binoche is excellent as Marianne, as she immerses herself in the cleaners’ work and their world, forming human bonds as she shares their lives. Between Two Worlds shows us these workers’ difficult lives but Marianne’s good intentions to inform the world about them is complicated by her deception as she becomes close to some of her co-workers, raising the question what happens when her fellow low-wage cleaners learn she was only a visitor in their hard world.


Title: Between Two Worlds

Directors: Emmanuel Carrère

Release Date: August 11, 2023

Running Time:

Language: English


Distribution Company:

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Jamie Broadnax, Leslie Combemale, Nikki Fowler, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore

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Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).