I prefer to avoid learning too much about films before I see them.
When Jean-Pierre Darroussi, the lead actor, appeared pre-show to state baldly that we would not find anything to laugh at in this film, I started to wonder if I had made a wise choice for my evening’s entertainment.
Early One Morning starts with Paul, a banker in his 50s, arriving in his workplace and gunning down his boss and a younger colleague who was threatening his position. Through a series of flashbacks the film explores what has brought this man to take such a desperate act.
The proximate cause is straight forward enough. With the banking crisis underway, Paul’s employer BICF has brought in new management to squeeze more results from the operation. Paul’s results are poor and he comes under pressure. Once a high flyer, Paul is now sidelined to a low status position and routinely humiliated by subtle and less than subtle mechanisms of corporate politics. For example the new boss invites Paul to boardroom meetings at inconvenient times, only for Paul to arrive, flustered, to an empty room.
The root causes are of course more interesting. Leaving to one side the question of what has created a corporate machine capable of chewing up and spitting out someone like Paul, the film focuses on Paul’s story and his choices. Paul has given everything to his career, neglecting his family and friends to the extent that he has nothing to fall back on when his work life falls apart. We are shown glimpses of what could have been. Paul’s family life had been better in the past and he and his wife did charity work, supporting a family in Mali and building a school. In scenes of Paul building the school he is completely engaged in the work and a picture of satisfaction.
It seems that Paul had important values that he suppressed through his single minded focus on his high status job. Rather than seeking to live his values in his work, it seems that Paul was seduced by the effortless rise through the ranks earlier in his career (and the status and money that went with that) and failed to ask the question, ‘Is this work intrinsically satisfying for me, is it aligned with my values?’.
This is a story about how a man was driven to desperate measures by a ruthless corporate machine, with unenlightened management and a corrosive culture, but it also shows how some of the responsibility for what happened is shared by the protagonist who failed to live a life true to his values.