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Marie’s Sons

Quebec actress-warbler Carole Laure turns to direction, considerably assisted by her artistic deviser, co-screenwriter, co-producer and d.p. Pascal Arnold, and the results are decidedly mixed.

Quebec actress-warbler Carole Laure turns to direction, considerably assisted by her artistic deviser, co-screenwriter, co-producer and d.p. Pascal Arnold, and the results are decidedly mixed. An odd subject, about a bereaved woman who seeks a son that she can mother, pic is never as emotionally gripping as it should be, but smacks of contrivance and theatricality. Modest commercial results are to be expected from this small-scale would-be tearjerker.

Laure plays the eponymous Marie, whose husband and teenage son have recently been killed in a car crash. Comparisons with Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors: Blue,” which begins with a similar premise, are as inevitable as they are damaging for this film. Unable to get over her loss, Marie — who is a partner in an up-market dress shop in Montreal — takes an ad in the paper: “Mother who has lost a son seeks a son who has lost a mother.”

Four young males respond to this plea from the heart. Alex (Danny Gilmore) is a sexually ambivalent performance artist into S&M; he was orphaned at the age of 12, and craves a mother’s love. Then there’s Martin (Felix Lajeunesse-Guy), a schoolboy about the age of her dead son. Martin seems to be a victim of domestic violence; his mother has gone, and his alcoholic father is obviously mistreating the boy, who exhibits scars and bruising. The shifty father charges Marie $150 per week for permission for Martin to come and live with her, and the boy makes a speedy recovery. Soon he’s showing interest in girls, and inviting them home.

The orphaned Victor (Daniel Desjardins) is vastly overweight and self-conscious about it. A computer geek, he never leaves the self-contained studio at the back of what was once his parents’ palatial home and which is now occupied only by servants. Marie’s task with him is to encourage him to get a life, and, like Martin, he responds to the love she lavishes on him.

Finally there’s Paul (Jean-Marc Barr), a much older man, who obviously has serious sexual hang-ups; married to a wife he despises and father of two children he abuses, he likes to have Marie comb his hair and contrives to expose himself to her. He’s fiercely jealous of his other “siblings.”

Marie’s attempts to find a surrogate son through one of these four are indeed traumatic, especially when it comes to Paul and Alex, though she acquires a certain peace of mind by the end of the film. But the inherent improbability of the narrative prevents too much identification with the plight of a woman who seems to be inordinately foolish, and Laure’s big monologue, near the film’s conclusion, which is supposed to be very touching, actually goes for little.

Barr and Gilmore are unable to make their off-the-wall characters very convincing, though Lajeunesse-Guy and, especially, Desjardins, in more sympathetic roles, fare better. Laure has saddled herself with the role of an irritating and poorly motivated protagonist.

Pic was evidently shot on video, and the transfer to film is an unusually poor one. The print which screened in Cannes had a predominately yellow tinge, which was unflattering for the actors and visually indigestible for the audience. Other credits are just passable.

Marie’s Sons

Critics Week / Canada-France

  • Production: A Les Prods. Laure-Furey-Toloda co-production, with the participation of SODEC, Canal Plus, Telefilm Canada, CNC, and the collaboration of Radio-Canada, Flach Film. (International sales: Flach Pyramide Intl., Paris.) Produced by Carole Laure, Pascal Arnold, Karina Grandjean. Directed by Carole Laure. Screenplay, Pascal Arnold, Laure.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Arnold; editor, Hugo Caruana; sound (Dolby digital), Pierre Blain; casting, Lucie Robitaille. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week), May 19, 2002. Running time: 100 MIN.
  • With: Marie - Carole Laure Paul - Jean-Marc Barr Martin - Felix Lajeunesse-Guy Alex - Danny Gilmore Victor - Daniel Desjardins
  • Music By: