Dr. Rainville, an aging country doctor with a deep attachment to his patients, is about to retire and is looking for a successor. Jeanne Dion, an emergency room doctor from Montreal, agrees...
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Dr. Rainville, an aging country doctor with a deep attachment to his patients, is about to retire and is looking for a successor. Jeanne Dion, an emergency room doctor from Montreal, agrees to go to Normétal to replace him for a few weeks, with no plans for an extended stay. When Dr. Rainville suddenly dies, Jeanne must decide if she'll take over the job, and its inherent responsibilities, for the long-term.Written by
Life in a northern Québec town shown with sympathy and depth
La Donation has received a lukewarm reception from some urban reviewers, but also has garnered several international awards. It's a cultural issue; to understand it, one must be sympathetic to the urban-rural divide. Knowing something of remote northern Canadian life also helps. (Contrary to a review on this site, the issue of the Canadian public health care system is peripheral here. Poor versus wealthy patients and Canadian-U.S. relations are referenced only for background to fill out the film's take on northern social life.)
The images are often stark: again, if a viewer needs spectacular scenery ("vistas"), you won't find them here. Instead there are rather ordinary shots of lakes, fields, fences and so on that evoke the northern Canadian experience more than any stunning mountain could.
Contrary to urban reviews (e.g. Variety, the Globe and Mail), the movement in this film is not slow. There's plot, and there's tension. Again, if you understand the culture at all it will pull at you: the town where everyone is connected, not always in pretty ways, the beauty of the mundane, the constructed life of a wealthy hermit physically disconnected from himself and his fellow humans, the slow inevitable process of living and dying, working and playing in a small northern town.
There are no answers to any of this, no neatly wrapped conclusions to personal romance or social ills or to the phenomenon of dying northern towns. What is here is a beautiful film focused upon capturing the tone of a small town in northern Quebec. It succeeds majestically.
Élise Guilbault plays the lead role with quiet intensity. The support roles are also handled well and do not caricature the subtleties of rural people.
As one character says in a scene that will stick with me, "J'ai peur." Maybe because of fear or a sense that we're all in this together, there is also charity (the film's theme) in most characters.
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