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Set during summer in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine of Quebec, Mario and Simon are two brothers living in a fishing village with their mother, who runs a grocery story, and their father, who runs a fishing business. Mario is ten years old, mute and autistic. He is withdrawn from reality and living in a surreal world that only his older brother Simon and his stuffed coyote share. Mario is very close with and deeply admires his 18 year old brother, whom he depends upon for love and attention. Simon reads Arabian Knights stories to Mario, dresses him in sheik's clothing and they play out imaginary wars in an Arabian style fortress that they built. Everything changes when Helene, a beautiful young tourist comes between the two brothers. Simon falls in love and begins to neglect his brother to spend time with her. Mario feels rejected and discovers what hate and jealously are. He sets about a chain of events that lead to tragedy. Written by
I saw this again recently and had to rewrite my original review circa 2005.
MARIO is the story of two brothers growing up in a fishing village on the golf of Saint Lawrence. The family works together to support the family business - which includes a grocery store run by the mother and a fishing business run by the father and the oldest son, Simon. Mario is the youngest child who happens to be autistic and mute. Thus, Mario's mother exclaims, "Mario is the way the Lord made him and we just have to accept that." The movie is beautifully shot on the Gaspe coast. Sounds, idyllic, right? Actually, MARIO has a dark undercurrent to it.
You see, Simon is fascinated with all things Arabian. He reads Arabian Knights stories to his brother, dresses him in sheik's clothing and gets the other children of the village to build an Arab style fortress. He dedicates the fortress by leading the children in a prayer to Allah
even though Simon and his family don't appear to be Arab or Muslim.
They are probably Catholic, because they attend mass on Sunday. If Simon were merely playing cowboys and Indians with the kids, maybe no one would see it as a problem. But his love of all things Arab is not just a phase Simon's going through, it's an obsession. For example, in the middle of the night, he terrorizes a group of campers with firecrackers just to impress his brother. He falls in love with a girl and tells her it's because she has Arab features. This is where the movie turns really dark. Mario becomes jealous of Simon's girlfriend and attempts to kill her. As a result, Simon breaks off the relationship with her. He goes back to playing Arabian knights with the kids. While playing, Mario has a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy and accidentally ends up killing one of the neighbor kids. As a result, he is taken out of the home and sent to a juvenile mental facility. When this happens, I can't help but feel that Simon is the one who should be sent away, not Mario. Ironicly, in our post 9-11 world, it would probably be the parents who would be investigated. This brings up a point I would like to make.
MARIO reminds us of just how much the political climate has changed since 1984. Please don't read racism into my review. I think there's nothing wrong with Simon admiring Arab culture. It's his fanaticism and erratic behavior that would make a lot of people paranoid. If this movie came out today, it would seem more like a horror story to many, more so than the "family film" it's been labeled as. Maybe this is why people should see MARIO again.
Now back to the story. A few months later, Simon picks Mario up at the mental institution. Instead of bringing him home like he's supposed to, he decides it's better if they run away. I won't give away the ending, but it's unexpected, shocking and tragic. And yet for others it might even be uplifting, depending on your POV. I must praise Xavier Norman Peterman for his outstanding portrayal of Mario. He alone is a good reason to see this movie. If you parents out there do let you kids watch this movie, be prepared to have an honest discussion with them about the issues it presents. MARIO is a bit disturbing, but in a good way if it gets people thinking about this world we all must share.
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