“A Hero’s Life,” the latest feature from Quebec actress-helmer Micheline Lanctot, is an intriguing drama exploring lost love, the tricks that memory plays and the ties that bind three generations of a French-Canadian family. The warm, often humorous tone will help pic ring up decent B.O. returns in French Canada, where it opened commercially Sept. 23. But the wordy v.o. narration and the woolly, isolationist view of World War II will limit its international appeal.
Lanctot’s script is based on an interesting, little-known slice of local history: In the 1940s, some German POWs were shipped to Canada, and rural Quebecois routinely enlisted these prisoners to help them out on their farms.
Agathe (Veronique Le Flaguais) and Bertin Chevalier (Gilbert Sicotte) are a young couple living on a farm outside Montreal, and their rather uneasy marriage is strained with the arrival of the German prisoner Hanibal (Christopher B. MacCabe). The film presents an almost idyllic portrait of his forced stay in Quebec. The Chevalier clan seems strangely unconcerned about his ties to the Nazis. Narrative is told from several perspectives, which makes for a fairly muddled first hour.
Agathe’s daughter Evelyne (Marie Cantin), now a middle-aged mother herself, is retelling a somewhat mythologized version of the Hanibal story to her own child, Amelie, as they drive toward the Chevalier farmhouse for a family reunion with the former German prisoner.
Pic features first-class Quebec thesps, but script fails to give any of them much room for character development. All tech credits are top-notch, particularly the lush scenic camerawork of vet lenser Thomas Vamos.