Goliath, as the name suggests, tells a time old David vs Goliath story of people versus big corporation.
In this instance, the people are French farmers suffering from cancer and limb malformations in their children as a result of the pesticides they use on their crops.
The pesticide companies are of course denying their chemicals are anything but safe.
The film shows events through the eyes of three characters: Patrick (Gilles Lellouche) an environmental lawyer who is attempting to redeem his past life defending the powerful by representing the affected farmers, wife of one of the cancer sufferers France (Emmanuelle Bercot) who joins an environmental activist group, and Mathias (Pierre Niney) a lobbyist working for the pesticide company.
It’s the lobbyist aspect of the story that turns out to be the most interesting, delving into the way these powerful groups manipulate social media, so called industry experts and politicians to say carefully written lines that aren’t technically lying but also aren’t telling the whole truth.
Their plan of attack is to claim they are only thinking of the welfare of the farmers, that without pesticides they wouldn’t be able to grow enough food to feed the population.
The efficient and ruthless way Matthias does his job is contrasted with scenes of him at home with his pregnant wife and step daughter.
How he is either unable to connect the dots or simply doesn’t care that his actions will have consequences for his children’s lives as well as the families in the affected rural towns is morbidly fascinating to watch.
Unfortunately the rest of the film is not much different from what we’ve seen in these types of stories before.
Captured in shaky handheld camera, the oppressive dour tone and muted colours might well suit the seriousness of the topic, but it doesn’t make it any less of a slog to get through.
The film states at the beginning that while these characters and events aren’t fact, they are certainly based on true stories.
Clearly those stories need telling, but the film is relying too heavily on the importance of its subject matter to make the case for watching.
Director: Frederic Tellier
Starring: Gilles Lellouche, Emmanuelle Bercot, Pierre Niney
Screening as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival running until Wednesday, April 6.