Three elderly hermits live in the woods. While wildfires threaten the region, their quiet life is about to be shaken by the arrival of two women - A story of intertwined destinies, where love can happen at any age.
Quebec, Canada, Nowadays. Three elderly hermits live deep in the woods, cut off from the rest of the world. While wildfires threaten the region, their quiet life is about to be shaken by the arrival of two women - A luminous octogenarian, unjustly institutionalized her whole life, and a young photographer charged with interviewing survivors of the region's deadliest forest fire. After the death of the eldest hermit, the two women make an astonishing discovery: hundreds of paintings echoing his tragic experience related to that devastating fire. A story of intertwined destinies, where love can happen at any age.Written by
Les films Outsiders
This is an adaptation of the Jocelyne Saucier novel, itself a wonderful, very short book that I'd recommend reading before you see the film. They are in many ways quite different and appear to want to accomplish different, equally valid things.
The film is a meditation on being old, not growing old, and the choices that one (young or old) can make. Three men have taken to living in the woods of northern Quebec (northern Ontario in the book), deliberately, for personal reasons, and one dies (at the very opening of the film). They are soon visited by Steve, a local innkeeper who delivers goods to the men, and his aunt Gertrude, who lives (until she visits Steve and family) in a psychiatric institution. Steve convinces the two men to look after her.
Concurrent with this storyline is that of Raf, a photographer (called simply The Photographer in the book), who wants to interview the third, now-deceased man, who survived the Great Fire in the early 1900s. (There actually was a great fire in Northern Ontario in 1916, at Matheson.) She imposes herself on the lives of the two old men and is somewhat of a romantic foil for Steve.
Marie des Neiges (as Gertrude now calls herself) becomes amorously involved with Charlie, and it is their relationship that is at the centre of the movie. They explain their life choices -- or lack therof, in Marie's case -- and how they think of themselves now. There is a scene where they make love, which is unlike anything I have ever witnessed on screen: it is tender, slow, meandering, and purposefully anti-climactic (pun intended). The north looks beautiful, as do these two together, and it isn't at all sentimental.
Yes, the film is slow, but I think that it is a deliberate choice. The director isn't seeking to deliver a propulsive narrative full of suspense and action. We are outside the city in a rural place that has its own rhythms, which the film reflects. At one point, the character Tom sings an entire Leonard Cohen song in a bar, and you have to wonder why it's there (beyond its allusion to birds and that it might stand in for a description of Tom's life). You have two choices: wish the film would hurry up or, as I decided I must, sit back and watch it all unfold. Glad I did.
A few thigs that didn't quite work: a major decision of one of the characters is handled, I thought, rather poorly. (It was done much better in the novel, where the decision is not a decision but a surprise.). Raf is presently as a rather aggressive reporter, and is really irritating, who is by no means, as Tom says, "a beautiful woman." Steve's storyline fades -- what happened? The book is more clear.
One final thing: the book's backstory about the fire has been largely edited out of the film, which was a wise choice, I think. It would have been far too distracting.
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