The Assistant

Julia Garner plays a young newcomer to the New York office of an irascible indie film mogul.

She has various menial tasks to perform, from getting out bottle of Fiji water for meetings and cleaning up croissant crumbs to organising private jets to LA and fielding calls from the boss’s irate wife.

Over the course of one very long day, we see the pressures and office culture wear her down, until she’s yelled at by the boss (who we never see) and feels demeaned by having to deal with a young woman who’s arrived from Idaho to be put up in a swish hotel and for whom the boss has marked out some ‘personal’ time in the afternoon.

Garner’s character feels she has to confess her misgivings about what’s going on to the head of HR, played with customary bluster by Matthew McFadden. He bats back each of her complaints and warns her she’s risking her career over nothing. 

It’s often played out in near-silence, with only the noise of office chatter, photocopiers, over-heard phone calls and the tap of keyboards. Much of Garner’s performance is internal, and all the better for it.

Kitty Green has written and directed a powerful, creepy film about film industry life that’s never been seen before and can probably claim to be the first drama about the MeToo movement – and it’s far more targeted than the flashier Bombshell comedy of last year, subtly conveying the insidious nature of office complicity in a culture of suppression, secrecy, bullying and intimidation. You really know what it must have been like working for Harvey Weinstein after this, and I understand why so many of those I met who did so were so jangly all the time.

I can’t say it’s an escape, or anything much to look at, all greys and greens and strip lighting, but that’s the institutional grip the office exerts and it’s a mood that infects the life of all who enter.