×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Necessities of Life

Finely wrought drama "The Necessities of Life" was inspired by a tuberculosis epidemic that broke out in the Inuit population of Canada's Far North in the 1940s and '50s.

With:
With: Natar Ungalaaq, Eveline Gelinas, Paul-Andre Brasseur, Vincent-Guillaume Otis, Antoine Bertrand, Guy Thauvette, Denis Bernard, Louise Marleau, Luc Proulx. (French, Inuktitu dialogue)

Finely wrought drama “The Necessities of Life” was inspired by a tuberculosis epidemic that broke out in the Inuit population of Canada’s Far North in the 1940s and ’50s. Natar Ungalaaq of “The Fast Runner” stars as a stricken man yanked from his isolated home terrain to a Quebec City hospital, where he experiences both profound culture shock and some barrier-transcending human connections. A model of delicate emotional restraint, the handsome pic earns its many lump-in-throat moments. Likely fest kudos should spur offshore tube sales and hopefully some arthouse placements.

It’s 1955, and the arrival of a boat during Baffin Island’s brief summer season of accessibility to the outside (i.e., white) world brings medical personnel who quickly diagnose Tivii (Ungalaaq) with TB. Quicker still, he’s separated from his wife and two daughters.

Three months’ passage later, he lands in Quebec City, where everything seems alien — even the myriad trees that obstruct clear views (unlike the stark, wide-open vistas of home). While no one here speaks Inuktitu, Tivii does grasp that his treatment is expected to last as long as two years.

Despairing, he’s nonetheless somewhat buoyed by the warm concern of fellow patient Joseph (Vincent-Guillaume Otis) and nurse Carole (Eveline Gelinas). His outlook improves when she orchestrates the hospital transfer of Kaki (Paul-Andre Brasseur), a similarly afflicted orphan boy who’s been away from his native culture for many months. That’s time enough to have learned French, so he can act as Tivii’s translator, while the latter takes a fatherly interest in stoking the child’s lapsed knowledge of traditional Inuk customs and myths.

Bernard Emond’s script at first suggests the key element will be cultural insensitivity, the staff and other patients initially showing scant regard for the protag’s fish-out-of-water bewilderment. But that note soon softens as Tivii grows interested in those around him, and vice versa. His polite carnal overture to Carole, a massive etiquette gaffe that would have ruffled no feathers back home, highlights the pic’s gentle humor.

Not everyone here is fated to recover from illness, and “Necessities” knows just how to eke maximum poignancy from its events without seeming to manipulate for tearjerking effect. Ungalaaq’s lovely performance easily sustains viewer involvement.

Direction by Benoit Pilon, hitherto mostly noted for his documentaries, is low-key yet always emotionally precise. Period details are nicely handled, while Michel la Veaux’s lensing (of both urban and spectacular Far North locations) and Robert Marcel Lepage’s keening string score are particularly key contributions.

The Necessities of Life

Canada

Production: A Seville Pictures presentation of an Acpav production, in association with Arico Films. Produced by Bernadette Payeur. Executive producer, Rene Chenier. Directed by Benoit Pilon. Screenplay, Bernard Emond, Pilon.

Crew: Camera (color), Michel la Veaux; editor, Richard Comeau; music, Robert Marcel Lepage; production designer, Normand Sarrazin; costume designer, Francesca Chamberland; sound (Dolby Digital), Luc Boudrias; assistant director, Eric Parenteau; casting, Catherine Didelot. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 25, 2008. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: With: Natar Ungalaaq, Eveline Gelinas, Paul-Andre Brasseur, Vincent-Guillaume Otis, Antoine Bertrand, Guy Thauvette, Denis Bernard, Louise Marleau, Luc Proulx. (French, Inuktitu dialogue)

More Film

  • Gay Chorus Deep South

    Why Airbnb Produced Documentary 'Gay Chorus Deep South,' Its First-Ever Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    The latest player to hit the film-festival circuit may be a bit unexpected: Airbnb, the travel-accommodations booking marketplace, developed, financed and produced documentary film “Gay Chorus Deep South,” set to premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 29. It’s the company’s very first feature film. Directed by David Charles Rodrigues, “Gay Chorus Deep [...]

  • Clint Eastwood May Direct 'The Ballad

    Clint Eastwood May Direct 'The Ballad of Richard Jewell'

    Clint Eastwood may direct “The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” a look at a security guard whose life gets turned upside down after media reports identified him as a possible suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing. The film is currently set up at Disney/Fox and could reunite Eastwood with Alan Horn, the current Disney Studios [...]

  • Hagazussa: A Heathen's Curse

    Film Review: 'Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse'

    If “The Witch” had been directed by the early-career Werner Herzog of “Aguirre,” “Heart of Glass,” and “Even Dwarfs Started Small,” the result might have been something in the spirit of “Hagazussa,” Lukas Feigelfeld’s wholly arresting feature debut. Given the extended U.S. title “A Heathen’s Curse” to underline saleable supernatural elements, this enigmatic folktale-cum-horror is [...]

  • Alex Ross Perry

    Alex Ross Perry to Write and Direct Stephen King's 'Rest Stop' for Legendary

    Alex Ross Perry will write and direct Legendary’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “Rest Stop.” King’s short, first published in Esquire magazine in 2003, won the national magazine award for fiction in 2004, and was later included in King’s 2008 collection, “Just After Sunset.” The movie is described as a propulsive cat-and-mouse thriller [...]

  • Hobbs & Shaw trailer

    'Hobbs & Shaw' New Trailer Touts More High-Intensity Fights

    A new “Hobbs & Shaw” trailer packs in the international action with fast cars and high-intensity fight scenes.  When the first trailer dropped in February, viewers were introduced to the genetically-enhanced villain Brixton, played by Idris Elba, as well as a newly cordial relationship between old enemies Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason [...]

  • ralph Fiennes WHITE CROW Directing BTS

    Ralph Fiennes Examines Rudolf Nureyev's Complicated Life in 'The White Crow'

    The story of “The White Crow,” Ralph Fiennes’ latest directorial effort, is as topical as anything currently sitting on the desk of a studio head. It tells of a rebellious artist grappling with his sexuality during turbulent political times rife with tensions between the United States and an agitated Russia.  But though the upcoming film, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content