Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Jeanne Leblanc
Writer: Judith Baribeau
Cast: Emilie Bierre, Marianne Farley, Judith Baribeau, Paul Doucet
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 5/29/21
Opens: June 18, 2021
Could this be another denunciation of suburban life? Yes it could , but it is also more. The picture is set in the small, tight-knit community of Sainte-Adeline, Quebec, a flourishing one filled with ranch-type houses, well-separated, lawns being watered as though this were a rich community anywhere in the United States. The town has a respected mayor, Jean-Marc Ricard (Paul Doucet), who is honored at a meeting in which everyone in Sainte-Adeline appears to attend. This mayor is given an additional boost by having tried to save the father of 13-year-old Magalie Jodoin (Emilie Bierre), who died giving Magalie’s mother, Isabelle Jodoin (Marianne Farley), the sole responsibility for the girl’s upbringing. As for the mayor’s home life, he and his wife Chantal (Judith Baribeau) have no children of their own, but had adopted two Mexicans.
The central issue is that Magalie, a pretty and popular student at the local high school, is pregnant, a fact brought home when she faints during a recital of youngsters preparing to enter a dance contest. And she refuses to name the father. Usually you can talk a kid into revealing the info, but Emilie remains close-mouthed and is determined to have the baby.
“Les Nôtres” could have been a whodunit, the audience prompted to guess the father’s identity based on clues, but the mayor is revealed early on as the guilty party, switching the story’s big questions into whether the girl will continue to refuse to reveal the villain’s identity to her mother and the social worker, and also the way that the situations ultimately resolve. In a Hollywood drama, the audience would hopefully be on the edge of their seats, virtually yelling “Nail the bastard!” But as the minutes march on, we get to think that, hey, this is not an American soap opera, its resolution is in the hands of the clever writer (Judith Baribeau) and Jeanne Leblanc, the director. This is Leblanc’s second feature after “Isla Blanca,” said to be a personal project based on her own story.
By the conclusion of the tale, we get to see how even Canadians, whose quasi-socialistic government with high taxes and solid services, can be as prejudiced as we in the States. The Mexican teen is assumed to be the dad, given his closeness to Magalie (he and his stepfather, the mayor, live next house over), and of course because he is Mexican. Still, Maglie’s mother reserves judgments, attempting to wrest the information from her daughter first by being exceptionally nice, then ranging off into screaming.
As played by the 17-year-old Emilie Bierre, whose reactions range from sulking to wishing her mother dead, might be compared to Monica Lewinsky, who though past her teen years believed that Bill Clinton would divorce his wife and marry her. But a child of 13 has little experience in life, probably believes that the mayor would love her forever like a father she no longer has.
“Les Nôtre” may indeed keep you on the edge of your seat even though you know the identity of the villain because of the authentic acting all around, with a particularly painful scene involving the unfulfilling seduction of the mayor by his own wife.
This movie soars above much of what Hollywood has been producing in part because the soundtrack does not intrude on the dialogue as if to tell you what to feel, but mostly because right to the ending, a powerful one, you will not know whether the unborn child will be aborted (Canada has liberal abortion laws) or whether the mayor will be outed.
In Quebec French with English subtitles.
103 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+ Acting A- Technical – B+ Overall – B+