Thursday, May 7, 2015

Happy Accidents

Familiar Grounds (2011) - Lafleur
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Maryse (Fanny Mallette, from Lafleur's debut, Continental) leads a quiet, boring existence day in an day out. Her absent facial expression says it all. But lately, small things are getting to her - a mini forklift parked right outside all winter in front of her house, clogged sink, daily chitchat with her husband...everything. Her brother Benoit (Francis La Haye, also in Lafleur's Tu dors Nicole) is a ne'er do gooder. He keeps screwing up his relationship with a devorcée with a son who hates him. He is a child in grown man's body, still living with his aging dad. Then there is a man from the future. He is a local owner of a car dealership. He just happens to be from the future 6-7 month ahead.

Familiar Grounds is split in 3 chapters - Accident #1, 2 and 3. These accidents slightly propels the film forward. First one is offscreen severing of a worker's arm at a cardboard box factory Maryse works at. This makes her preoccupied with the thought of putting a severed arm in ice in order to reattach it later. The motif of arm, whether it's her examining hers in front of the mirror for hours or people raising their arms to say hi or that of mannequins courses throughout the film. Lafleur's connecting visual gags are perhaps the subtlest of them all in cinema and I love it. The second "accident" is a small bird running into Benoit's window. He cooks it for dinner (it was still alive according to him), not realizing that it is too small for 4 people. The third one concerns the man of the future, as he tells Benoit that his sister is going to be in a fatal car accident. He also tells him that it will be a beautiful summer. And Benoit decides to take charge.

Then the film becomes a road movie with the siblings going up to their dad's old cottage to get a trailer (to get rid of the forklift) in the blizzard. Winter has been long and miserable for both of them. Something's gotta change....

Wry, affecting and inventive, Lafleur's world has a unique, quiet charm all to itself. These accidents in life are not going to be life changing for these lonely, confused, disconnected people, but they give them a some sense of comfort for us to know that whether they know it or not, that we are all somehow connected in this world.

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