Our Loved Ones (2015) – Anne Emond

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This film is from a local filmmaker from Quebec, Canada. I joked about the plausibility of it being another insufferable undramatic clumsily penned French Canadian production, and a friend reprimanded me. He said: “At least she’s trying,” to which I replied “Yes, we all must try” and proceeded to walk away.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that even after attending film school for 3 years, and failing miserably at producing any semblance of a short narrative film, creating any kind of professional-looking long feature is an arduous task. Applying for grants, rounding up a crew, mounting a production schedule, all insurmountable feats from my perspective. Let alone writing a script. Hence, today I work as some kind of project manager for web development projects, for a large insurance company. My artistic ambitions are in the past, and all I do pertaining to cinema is simply immerse myself in other people’s stories.

But when I see a film like this one, I can’t help but feel I could have done much better. At the very least I could have helped improve it. The defects are so glaring: underdeveloped characters, limited range of situations, tawdry sentimentality. All the hallmarks of a lack of imagination.

We follow Dave, shortly after the death of his father, as he begins to form his own family. His father committed suicide, but he has been told that he died from a heart attack Ten years pass, he has two kids, and in a drunken stupor at a party his brother tells him the truth about his father’s death. This aggravates his cyclical bouts of depression, and as he watches his kids grow older, he remains somewhat distant from them.

The story then turns gears to focus on his daughter, who is struggling with transitioning into adulthood. A few missteps with boyfriends and with career choices, but nothing overdramatic, except the lack of understanding between her and her father. Dave eventually commits suicide, and we are left perplexed as to why. It might have been the “disease” of depression.

That’s the story, slightly supported by scenes that attempt to show Dave’s efforts to emotionally connect with his loved ones. But he is severely limited expressively. A constant nervous smile sums up his range of emotions.

I went into this film, expecting a display of the magnitude of love. A study of the bonds that tie families together. Some psychological depth. But it’s as though no character had an elaborate inner life. The only antagonist, Dave’s brother, a hard-partying brute, shows the kind of complex emotion that could have beefed up the story had his reach extended.

But there is one thing I really liked. Dave’s daughter is in a relationship with a schizophrenic teenager, who ends up dying young. She is heartbroken, but writes a posthumous letter which she recites at his funeral. It is a vibrant confession of teenage romance that is both poetic and self-aware in its fatalism and acceptance of human self-destruction. It captures the brute force of youthful potential and its gradual restriction by damaging life experiences. Dave confesses to it being the most beautiful thing he ever heard, and urges his daughter to continue writing as her talent is obvious.

Anne, if you read this, just like Dave’s daughter in this story, your talent is obvious. But please reach out to me so I may counsel you on cinematic form and flow. You have the honesty part down, and the whole production logistics part too. But I’d like to show you something about vision, sight, and how it relates to narrative, and how it leverages actual life experience. That letter to your schizophrenic friend, that’s true love, infinity. Let’s expand on it.

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Categories: Notes

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