Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Movie Review: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Directed by: Denis Côté.
Written by: Denis Côté.
Starring: Pierrette Robitaille (Victoria Champagne), Romane Bohringer (Florence Richemont), Marc-André Grondin (Guillaume Perreira-Leduc), Marie Brassard (Marina St-Jean / Jackie), Georges Molnar (Émile Champagne), Olivier Aubin (Nicolas Smith), Pier-Luc Funk (Charlot Smith), Guy Thauvette (Yvon Champagne), Ramon Cespedes (Jackie's Assistant).

When we first meet Victoria (Pierrette Robitaille), she has just been released from prison for a crime that was serious enough to get her a life sentence, but is never revealed to the audience. She’s at a bus stop with two young boys, who play a trumpet – badly. She tells them as much, and tells them that they shouldn’t ask for money if they play so badly. They tell her she could give them some money for encouragement – but she’s not interested in doing that either. This is the strange start – but one fitting the dark fable that is to follow.

The central relationship in the film is between Victoria and Florence (Romane Bohringer) – who were lovers in prison, and are reconnecting now that Victoria is out of prison. Florence is younger – by a few decades – that the 61 year old Victoria, who seems more committed to Florence than she is to Victoria. Victoria has moved out to the middle of nowhere in the backwoods of Quebec. She moves into her uncle’s house – a former sugar shack, that has been closed for years. Her Uncle Emile (Georges Molnar) is mute, and confined to a wheelchair. He has been cared for by Charlot (Pier-Luc Funk), a teenage boy, and his father Nicolas (Olivier Aubin) – who don’t much like the arrival of these two women. Other characters enter the picture – Guillaime (Marc-Andre Grondin), Victoria’s parole officer, who won’t seem to leave them alone, but is the most sympathetic male character in the movie – even admitting that Victoria reminds him of his mother – an odd thing to say about a woman who has spent decades behind bars. Then there is Marina (Marie Brassard) – who at first seems to be little more than a friendly neighbor, but will turn out to be a dark presence out of Florence’s past. Like what Victoria is in jail for, we never really learn what Florence did to Marina – but it doesn’t really matter. Neither woman can escape their past.

The film has a mounting sense of dread throughout. The film starts by observing these two characters – and those characters who enter their world. Côté shoots everything with the same flat look – paying no more attention to the women in bed together than when they walk through the woods. All Victoria wants is to be left alone – she loves Flo, and thinks that they can be happy with just the two of them in the sugar shack together – but Flo wants more excitement in her life, and seeks it out. But she should be careful what she wished for.
The ending of the film is shocking and violent – but it doesn’t come out of nowhere. It has been what been what Côté has been building to all along. The film is a dark, feminist fable in which the women are punished for the sins of their past – that go unnamed, and may not even be sins. It is a fascinating film, one that grows in your mind long after it’s over.

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