Winning Quebecoix romantic comedy “Heat Waves” finds a respectable fiftysomething widow flustered by the ardent attentions of a highly inappropriate 19-year-old — not least because the feelings are mutual. Penned by playwright Michel Marc Bouchard (“Lilies”), this glossy debut feature from thesp-turned-TV helmer Sophie Lorain has strangely stirred scant festival interest since hitting local screens a year and a half ago. But it would make an appealing specialty pickup for select offshore arthouse and home-format distribs, with strong remake potential.
Social worker Gisele (Montreal stage fixture Marie-Therese Fortin) has just lost her husband of many decades to cancer, although her grief is tempered by the last-minute disclosure that he’d been involved with another woman for years. (Long before she does, we learn the lady in question is Gisle’s own sister Marjo, played by Marie Brassard.) Immediately her husband’s friends come a-courting, as well as co-worker Laurent (Yvan Benoit), resulting in a lot of bad first dates and polite fending-off.
But none of that is quite so unsettling as the heated pursuit by scruffy but charming klepto Yannick (Francois Arnaud), whom she counseled as a suicidal 17-year-old a discomfitingly short while ago. Once they accidentally cross paths again, he pitches determined woo, stealing gifts to deliver to her suburban doorstep. Resistance seems called for but is futile; despite her worries about a scandal, she’s soon experiencing hitherto unknown joys.
Nonetheless, propriety, immaturity, the rude reactions of strangers and other factors, including Gisele’s combative adult twin offspring (Francois Letourneau, Veronique Beaudet), continue to heighten her fear that she’s a fool to even consider involvement with this barely legal delinquent. A satisfying escalation of events eventually force her to consider a change of perspective.
Fortin brings wry warmth and dignity to a character who’s no aerobicized cougar bombshell but attractively looks (and acts) her age. “I Killed My Mother’s” Arnaud flashes an antic charm, balancing Yannick’s often reckless impulsiveness with convincing romantic zeal.
Supporting roles are all nicely turned. Ditto packaging, which makes fine widescreen use of handsome Quebec City and its surroundings; considerable action takes place at a lakeside summer cottage. Soundtrack choices are smart if occasionally a little too party-hearty.