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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Sitting Duck (M) - 122 minutes

Updated: Jun 11

A political thriller concerning a trade union official and whistleblower who wasn’t believed after a violent personal attack, The Sitting Duck is based upon fact.


The central figure is Maureen Kearney (Isabelle Huppert), who had a hood put over her head, before being bound, raped and cut on 17th December, 2012.


She worked for Areva, a French multinational specialising in nuclear power.

A change of leadership at the firm ahead of the 2012 French election brought with it extra pressure on Kearney.


She vowed to stay on and was duly elected to represent Areva’s then 50,000 workers for a sixth term.


She didn’t trust the new Areva head Luc Oursel (Yvan Attal).


Vindication of her suspicions came quickly when she was presented with a damning document that pointed to the French conglomerate selling out to the Chinese.

Tens of thousands of Areva jobs were on the line, but when she tried to raise the matter with political heavyweights, her overtures were not welcomed.


Oursel, too, made it clear that she should back off, while she was repeatedly threatened and intimidated.


And then came the physical attack toward the end of 2012, in which, among other depravities, the letter A was carved into her stomach.


In a shocking turn of events, the upshot was that with no evidence, no witnesses and no DNA, she went from being a victim to a suspect.

Her personal history was trawled over and she took hit after hit.

Nevetheless, over the ensuing six years, with her husband Gilles Hugo (Gregory Gadebois) behind her, she fought an often-difficult campaign for justice.

Hers is and was a most unusual case and ripe to be made into a movie. Sitting there watching events unfold, I was incredulous.

The Sitting Duck has been adapted from a 2019 book of the same name by investigative journalist Caroline Michel-Augirre.

Directed by Jean-Paul Salome, he wrote the screenplay alongside Fadette Drouard.

It is a film about power and control. At its core is skulduggery, misogyny and sexual assault.

Isabelle Huppert is a standout as Kearney, a woman of fierce determination and vulnerability. We learn more about the latter as the movie progresses. Suffice to say that Huppert carries herself with dignity and poise.

Gadebois brings stoicism, warmth and good humour to his representation of Kearney’s husband.

Mara Taquin is a chip off the old block, playing Kearney’s demonstrative and argumentative daughter Fiona. The pair often don’t see eye to eye, but clearly they care about each other.

Yvan Attal is fiery as the Areva boss, fed up with Kearney’s meddling.

Pierre Deladonchamps portrays the policeman heading up the investigation as a man copping pressure from his higher ups.

There are many threads to the script and the movie requires concentration to take it all in, however if you do there is payoff and satisfaction.

I appreciated the twists. I was gripped and longed to find out more. What was being revealed had impact. I felt my outrage grow.

The fact that it is drawn from reality gives it extra bite.

Rated M, The Sitting Duck scores a 7½ out of 10.


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