Trying to get her life back on track after a breakup, Ariane moves back to her hometown and in with her mother. To save her sinking finances, she takes a job at the local corn plant as a French-to-Spanish interpreter for the seasonal migrant workers employed there. She befriends Manuel, an illiterate, naive young man who has left his small children behind in Guatemala to earn as much as he can in Canada. As Ariane begins to witness how the workers are being taken advantage of, and as the only one who seems to see them as real people, she finds it increasingly difficult to keep quiet. What unites all of them, from boss to migrant worker, is a deep desperation to keep their job, but the individual choices they make in the face of mounting pressure reveal everyone's true character.
Avoiding saccharine moralization, director Pier-Philippe Chevigny manages to inject empathy into every scene. Ariane Castellanos gives a captivating performance, with tortured compassion emanating from the screen. Richelieu is an incredibly strong debut feature that examines the terrible circumstances people can live through, and the individual cost of doing the right thing.––Frederic Boyer