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Time Out (French)

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Vincent is a man who grew up but didn’t acquire the sense of responsibility that comes with adulthood. His parents live nearby and dote on him, his dad willing to lend him large sums of money almost without discussion. Vincent is more interested in being a pal to his son than in being a husband to his wife. Oh, and work: Vincent won’t do it.

His reasons for this are at the heart of “Time Out,” a French film that takes a farcical plot and zeroes in on the humanity in it.

Vincent (Aurelian Recoing) has already been fired from his office job when the film begins, but he has not told anyone. He still leaves the house every morning and fabricates work-related stories to tell his loving wife, Muriel (Karin Viard). He even takes business trips. Few have ever worked harder at not working.

So far, it is an old “Brady Bunch” plot, and an undistinguished one at that. But it slowly changes. Vincent tells Muriel he may soon be “transferring” to a new job in Switzerland, but we see this, too, is a lie. Soon, he has created an entirely new job — with the United Nations, even! — out of thin air, though he does go to Switzerland during the week for appearance’s sake.

When friends offer genuine help in getting him a new job, he refuses them. Instead, he takes money from friends to “invest” in some vague new market, secretly spending the money himself. Here is a man who, though more than 40 years old, is unprepared for the consequences of adult life. He cannot plan or strategize; all he can do is react, in the moment, and then cope with the aftermath. His greatest marketable skill is that he is quietly manipulative — so quiet he probably doesn’t even realize how good he is at it.

But in fairness to Vincent, what good was his job anyway? We are never clear on what he did before he was fired, and his fake new job with the U.N. is just as nebulous. Does ANYONE actually work anymore, or do we just manage each other?

The director, Laurent Cantet (who co-wrote the film with Robin Campillo), maintains intimacy by keeping the cameras close and unobtrusive, and the music barely noticeable. His focus is on the people who inhabit the story, not the story itself. As such, “Time Out” may move too slowly for some, and the payoff is more psychological than visceral. It is an effective, even haunting, character study, though, and Aurelien Recoing plays Vincent with great claustrophobic, slow-boiling panic.

B+ (2 hrs., 8 min.; PG-13, some mild profanity, some vulgarity, one scene of suggested sexuality.)