Huppert plays Patience Portefeux, a middle-aged Arabic language PhD working as a police interpreter on drug cases, while worrying about paying for her mother's care facility and her own retirement. Her boss, with whom she's having an affair, offers to take care of her but, true to her deceased husband's memory and not really into following the law, she takes a different path.
Patience's father, it is revealed, was a penniless Algerian immigrant who skirted the law out of necessity, and she has sympathy for the people she spies on through police wiretaps, "all to send kids to jail to get radicalized for three grams of hash." Or, as Cayre writes, "The interpreter was simply a tool to accelerate the act of repression." Patience sometimes colored her translations or "invented things" to help needy defendants, or did the opposite when they tried to implicate their poorly-treated wives or girlfriends.
"I can only think though—even if my cop boyfriend insists I'm wrong—that this excess of resources, this furious determination to drain the sea of hash inundating France, teaspoon by teaspoon, is above all else a tool for monitoring the population insofar as it allows identity checks to be carried out on Arabs and Blacks ten times a day."