The Coal Miner's Day

The title of this French documentary refers not only to the daily slog of the 600 men who work the state-controlled Bouzhanska mine in Ukraine but also to the annual Day of the Mineworker, a vestige of the Soviet era celebrated at Bouzhanska with a pompous ceremony that bookends the action of the movie. Director Gaël Mocaër frames this 2013 release as a slice of life, though it’s a life few would envy given the mine’s inky darkness, claustrophobic spaces, and dodgy safety regulations. Without any clear sense of the job itself, this quickly settles into tedium, relieved only by the workers’ ready wit and offbeat coping strategies (one man clears the coal dust from his system by playing “Theme From Love Story” on a melodica).