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Locarno International Film Festival
LOCARNO, Switzerland — In “Summit Circle” (“Contre toute esperance”), Quebec director Bernard Emond continues his trilogy on faith, hope and charity with another moving drama about good people trying to find their way in a world of despair. Following his exploration of faith in “The Novena” in 2005, Emond tells a compassionate but unsentimental story of a loving couple struggling to maintain hope in the face of devastating illness. He draws exceptional performances from a cast led by Guylaine Tremblay and Guy Jodoin as the couple, and the film, here in Competition, may expect to join the earlier film in winning wide applause and prizes.
Structured as a police procedural with lots of flashbacks, it begins with a distraught and bloodied woman being arrested after emptying a rifle into the walls and windows of a rich man’s home. When the woman’s husband is found shot dead by the same rifle at their apartment, Lt. Allard (Rene-Daniel Dubois) attempts to piece together what happened. He is not helped by the fact that the woman, Rejeanne (Tremblay), is so traumatized she is unable to speak.
Emond tells the story through the silent woman’s memories while the policeman digs for information from friends and neighbors. Childhood sweethearts, switchboard operator Rejeanne and her truck driver husband Gilles (Jodoin) have made a happy life together and have just moved into a lovely suburban home when he suffers a stroke.
Then she is laid off when the call center where she has worked for 20 years is sold with the firm’s chief executive, whose compensation that year is $13 million, explaining that it was due to market forces. As Gilles’ health deteriorates, Rejeanne takes whatever work she can get but they must give up their dream home. With support from her husband’s best friend, Claude (Gildor Roy), she fights to sustain hope as things just get worse.
Tremblay gives a measured and deeply felt performance as the loving and dignified wife while Jodin carries off the difficult task of a man becoming increasingly debilitated. Jean-Claude Labrecque’s cinematography is warm and elegant while Robert Marcel Lepage’s score offers shrewd accompaniment.
Emond conveys life’s verities without rancor and scenes contrasting the wealthy man’s good fortune with the desperation of his dismissed employees are all the more powerful for being subtle.
The deliberate pace never flags and small moments such as the stricken man pausing to enjoy the sound of Canada Geese flying south or the woman struggling to remain poised in the face of adversity add depth to a thoughtful and illuminating film.
Seville Pictures presents a Corporation Acpav production
Director, screenwriter: Bernard Emond
Producer: Bernadette Payeur
Director of photography: Jean-Claude Labrecque
Production designer: Gaudeline Sauriol
Music: Robert Marcel Lepage
Costume designer: Sophie Lefebvre
Editor: Louise Cote
Rejeanne: Guylaine Tremblay
Gilles: Guy Jodoin
Claude: Gildor Roy
Lieutenant Allard: Rene-Daniel Dubois
Deniger: Serge Houde
House owner: Jasmine Dube
Supervisor: Annick Bergeron
Neighbor: Carmen Sylvestre
Maid: Yael Guazo
Running time — 89 minutes
No MPAA rating
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