Oppression takes many forms, and so do those who perpetuate it. Sometimes it’s entirely faceless, and sometimes it bears the face of those closest to us. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it makes us feel weak, and sometimes it tricks us into believing we’re powerful. This complex, multi-dimensional approach to tyranny in all its forms is the driving force behind HER JOB, and one which director Nikos Labôt delivers on in this accomplished, if unbalanced debut.
Panagiota (Marisha Triantafyllidou) is a housewife who, desperate to escape her husband and lacking a sense of purpose, applies to be a cleaner at the local shopping mall. Tensions rise between her and her husband as she becomes increasingly independent, however, and she is eventually compelled to confront the forces seeking to control her. Her internal struggles during this period are expertly conveyed through Dionysis Efthymiopoulos’ cinematography, which grows increasingly claustrophobic as Panagiota’s situation becomes more and more desperate. The pounding, synth-infused soundtrack is equally effective, and the fact that it’s used so sparingly adds weight to each staccato twang. As Panagiota changes, so does the filmmaking, and it’s this seamless blend of character and direction that is arguably HER JOB’s greatest achievement.
Marisha Triantafyllidou’s performance is equally accomplished, capturing Panagiota’s near-constant fear without ever losing sight of the deep-seated insecurity from which it stems. Moments of levity are rare, but when Panagiota does crack a smile it feels all the more earned, and Triantafyllidou knows just the right amount to push it.
Unfortunately, while Labôt’s direction is excellent, his storytelling occasionally falls flat. Certain plot threads – such as the issues Panagiota’s daughter has with bullying and her weight – are introduced at the beginning only to be entirely forgotten about later on. The script also feels wonky, ambling through the first half and leaving the second without enough room to breathe: a shame, given how it’s during the cluttered final act that the excellent character dynamics really start to come through. The ending, too, seems slightly rushed, leaving multiple questions unanswered despite the meandering route it took to ask them.
Though hindered by pacing issues and an underwhelming climax, HER JOB remains a complex, subtle and expertly crafted character study highlighting the quiet, pernicious ways emotional abuse can manifest in both the familial and the faceless.