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Emile (2003)

2:18 | Trailer
In a story weaving the past and present together, Emile seeks redemption from the family he abandoned.


Carl Bessai


Carl Bessai
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Ian McKellen ... Emile
Deborah Kara Unger ... Nadia / Nadia's Mother
Theo Crane Theo Crane ... Maria / Nadia (age 10)
Tygh Runyan ... Freddy
Chris William Martin ... Carl
Ian Tracey ... Tom
Janet Wright ... Alice
Nancy Sivak Nancy Sivak ... Superintendent
Frank Borg Frank Borg ... Taxi Driver


As a young man, Emile left his Saskatchewan farm life behind to head to university in Britain, with his brothers, the older brusque and controlling Carl and the younger sensitive Freddy, left to run the family farm. This move was despite Freddy showing greater potential and thus probably benefiting more from academic life. However, Carl wouldn't allow Freddy to leave because of his mechanical expertise which was required to tend to the farm equipment. Emile vowed to return, but never did, which affected Freddy the most. Now in early retirement, Emile, still living in Britain, travels to Victoria, Canada to accept an honorary degree from the university there. In Victoria, he decides to stay with now deceased Carl's grown daughter Nadia, and Nadia's ten year old daughter Maria. Emile had never made any attempt over the years to connect with Nadia or Maria, who only really know him by name. On the surface to Nadia, Emile's visit is purely a need on his part for a free bed while in ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Ravenwest Films [Canada]


Canada | UK



Release Date:

9 January 2004 (Canada) See more »

Also Known As:

Finding the Past See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »


Box Office


CAD 3,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


While in British Columbia, Sir Ian McKellen developed an obsession with Beaver Tails, a long donut with sugar on it. He told Director Carl Bessai that his character had to have a line with "beaver tails" in it, which is how that piece of dialogue got into the movie. See more »


The film was shot in British Columbia but some parts of the action are set in Saskatchewan. In one Saskatchewan scene, there are mountains on the horizon. There are no mountains in (or visible from) Saskatchewan. See more »

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User Reviews

19 September 2003 | by yukino_hhwangSee all my reviews

Unlike many movies discussing family, Emile focuses on the relationship among brothers, among uncle and nieces. Sometimes, it is a lot of so-called obligations between father/mother and son/daughter. The bond is too strong to escape from it. It is more romantic, as holiday hobby is more romantic than weekday job. There are a lot of space for one's free will, a man doesn't have to scarify just because he is someone else's whoever.

It is why I can only partially agree with the footnote of the movie `it is a movie about human being rather than human doing.' He has choice, what he has done of course decides what he is. I just grasp something from existentialism.

Compare to the director's previous work, Lola, the movie with a younger woman as leading character, I can identify myself with the characters in Emile more. People in Emile suffer more struggles inside their hearts. Lola does experiences many exciting and fantastic, and she does suffer something. However, I can't find any identity in her `innocent' expression.

It is an interesting thing when the movie reminds me of another Ian McKellen's great acting, Gods and Monsters. Maybe it is because of the way of describing, putting now and then, reality and imagination together in the same picture. (It made me think that `Ian McKellen's acting is similar to his previous one' at first. Actually, Emile and James Whale are built much different.) Director Carl Bessai spent much effort to build up such the atmosphere of what happens in an old man's mind, much more than Bill Condon did, in my `humble' opinion, a little too much. Carl Bessai chose still rather than action. It seems to express the idea `human being rather than human doing'. It is also a trade off a director must take.

In a picture, a motion picture, the present and the past are seamlessly married, but not in a logic. The screenplay doesn't give a good and strong reason to release the ice wall between Emile and his niece, Nadia. A strong ending doesn't mean exciting action or whatever else. Of course, you can choose a tranquil way, but the most tranquility has huge surges beneath.

Ian McKellen's acting is so convincing, Emile seems a part of himself. (Maybe he would protest that there is no a single character can present himself.) It is rare that a veteran actor can bring a sense of innocent. And Deborah Unger surprises me much. Her coldness toward Ian is the most incredible, because it is also rare that a young actress can build up such tense to someone much older than herself, rather than go in the same direction. Tygh Runyan did not act much in the movie, but he has a sensitive looking.

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