Review: ‘Behind the Blue’

Cendrine Marie-France Monette Emile David La Haye Thomas Gilbert Sicotte Suzanne Monique Spaziani Pauline Danielle Proulx Firmin Michel Charette

Cendrine Marie-France Monette Emile David La Haye Thomas Gilbert Sicotte Suzanne Monique Spaziani Pauline Danielle Proulx Firmin Michel Charette

“Behind the Blue” is the latest offering from helmer Robert Menard and writer Claire Wojas, the same Quebec team that delivered the boffo B.O. hit “Cruising Bar” a few years back. Their new pic, though a much more sophisticated proposition than their earlier smash, will likely do well in French Canada. The film opened on 20 screens across Quebec the first week of September.

This drama about a young man and girl marooned on a deserted island in the Caribbean could also pique interest in other Francophone territories, but it’s more likely to turn up on TV and video in foreign markets.

Pic opens with Emile (David La Haye), a 20-year-old mentally handicapped man, and Cendrine (Marie-France Monette), a 12-year-old girl, being reseued after several weeks on an out-of-the-way island in the Bahamas. Both are in a coma-like state when they arrive at a Bahamian hospital, and Cendrine’s mother and Thomas, who adopted Emile, have both flown out to the Bahamas to be near their kids.

Menard relates the story of Emile and Cendrine’s ordeal through a series of flashbacks that are intercut with scenes of Thomas trying to come to grips with the tragic situation. Thomas’ wife, Suzanne, had been on her way to a Caribbean vacation spot with Emile when their plane crashed, leaving only two survivors.

Cendrine, a highly articulate, precocious preteen, was initially terrified by her companion on the deserted beach, certain this “retard” was going to rape and kill her. But, soon enough, they’re fast friends, laughing and playing on the beach.

As they grow closer — and start sleeping in the same bed — Cendrine begins to develop somewhat confused sexual feelings toward Emile, and one of the strengths of Wojas’ script is her ability to treat their affair without resorting to either moralism or sensationalism.

Wojas rarely stoops to easy melodrama in her depiction of Emile’s mental handicap, and La Haye does a first-rate job in the difficult role. Never overplaying the childlike character, he manages to be utterly sympathetic and believable at the same time. Monette brings a surprising intensity to her performance as a 12-year-old girl who’s more mature than her 20-year-old friend.

Michel Caron’s photography contrasts the stunning blues of the sea with the tougher landscape. One of the only problems here is prolific composer Richard Gregoire’s orchestral score, which has the unfortunate habit of employing overblown flourishes whenever the drama goes into high gear.

Behind the Blue

(CANADIAN)

Production

A Film Tonic release (in Canada) of a Les Productions Videofilms and Max films production, in association with the National Film Board of Canada and with the participation of Telefilm Canada and SODEC. (International sales: Film Tonic Intl., Montreal.) Produced by Roger Frappier, Robert Menard. Directed by Robert Menard, Screenplay, Claire Wojas. Camera (color), Michel Caron; editor, Michel Arcand; music, Richard Gregoire; sound, Serge Beauchemin; art direction, Jean-Baptiste Tard; costumes, Francesea Chamberland; associate producers, Claire Wojas, Yves Rivard, Nicole Lamothe. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (competing), Aug. 27, 1995. Running time: 107 MIN.
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