Gary (Tahar Rahim) is a young man looking for a job, somewhere to sleep, and people to connect with. With no qualifications to his name Gary starts working at a nuclear power plant and living with his fellow workers. By day he is risking being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation but by night he finally has a community to share his time with. His colleagues may be rough around the edges but they are good company and you need to be able to rely on one another when working in such a dangerous environment. Before starting his new job Gary is introduced to the symptoms of radiation poisoning by his co-worker Karole (Léa Seydoux) who jokingly gives him a passionate kiss while her boyfriend Toni (Denis Ménochet) watches and laughs.
It would seem that Gary has finally found everything he is looking for but that wouldn’t make a satisfying drama now would it? After one particularly sexually charged car ride Gary finds himself flung into a passionate affair with Karole. What started as a one-off develops into something a little more as Gary falls deeper and deeper in love with his friend’s girlfriend. As the intensity of his passion rises so does his recklessness as Gary ignores protocols at the power plant that ensure his safety but might separate him from the object of his desire. It is unclear what will be Gary’s ultimate downfall; his dangerous job or his dangerous love life.
Director Rebecca Zlotowski has created a film of simmering tension and an atmosphere in which the audience is constantly unsure of when the house of cards will come tumbling down. In the harsh industrial setting of the power plant Gary and his coworkers are covered from head to toe as any exposed skin increases the danger of radiation. When Gary and Karole are together they are completely exposed but in the fields where their affair takes place everything feels completely safe. Back at camp the two lovers are clothed but vulnerable; in danger should their indiscretion be discovered. Only when the pair are alone together can the audience relax as any other time death and discovery are a misstep away. Their love for one another is simple, primal, and somehow naive and innocent. In amongst tall grass and away from the dangers elsewhere Gary and Karole can be themselves and feel safe with one another. A relationship forged in passion turns tender and all the more intimate.
Seydoux and Rahim are a superb pair. Both give layered performances that allow them to behave foolishly without losing sympathy. Seydoux are Karole gives a particularly conflicted performance as a woman in love with one man but in lust with another while Rahim plays Gary as a man driven almost mad by desire. Grand Central as a result is a tense and sexy drama about how quickly one can become infected by love for another and how decisions made in the height of passion may not always serve you well. At times a little over the top and humourless Grand Central is nonetheless incredibly watchable and a great display of modern French filmmaking.