Nuit No 1: Film Review

"Nuit #1"
Anne Émond's Genie-winning debut gets a theatrical booking after playing two dozen fests.

Anne Émond's debut feature starring Catherine De Léan and Dimitri Storoge, is a bold and intimate study of a one-night stand.

Revealing the existential despair of two young Canadians without quite succumbing to despair itself, Anne Émond's quietly raw Nuit #1 begins as a highbrow sex film but quickly becomes something much more interesting. Laudable leads and a refreshingly direct take on its subject should help arthouse prospects, especially if the picture finds some fans in the tastemaker crowd.

Clara (Catherine De Léan) and Nikolaï (Dimitri Storoge), having met off-camera at a rave, enter Nikolaï's apartment and enjoy an encounter that, however sexy, is presented with enough real-time verisimilitude to pause for trips to the bathroom and the retrieval of condoms. With light from streetlamps illuminating the grubby apartment in a narrow Academy-sized frame, we watch a slightly-more-than-R-rated coupling that ends with a hot bath for her and sleep for him.

Nikolaï wakes when Clara tries to sneak out, though, and after getting her back inside he scolds her, sadly. Modern love makes him sick, he says; two people who've seen each other naked owe each other, at least, a proper goodbye. He imagines happier ways the evening might have ended, and after listening to him patiently -- is that contempt or sympathy on her face? -- she returns the favor.

Their sentiments are universal to those who gamble on strangers in search of love, and, since the film's title suggests the first of many nights to come, we imagine a relationship might grow out of all this uncomfortable frankness. But taller hurdles lie ahead, as a long night of talking turns criticism inward: Nikolaï and Clara prove to be deeply wounded people, and here Émond's script makes her characters more than mouthpieces for a million frustrated singles.

The characters' flaws are just specific and distasteful enough for us to step back from them without ceasing to relate; few viewers who've been around the block will fail to see some shard of a past lover or a past self exposed in these soliloquies, which are delivered without histrionics and structured with the finesse of a good play.

Production Company: Metafilms
Cast: Catherine De Léan, Dimitri Storoge
Director-Screenwriter: Anne Émond
Producer: Nancy Grant
Director of photography: Mathieu Laverdière
Costume designer: Yola Van Leeuwenkamp
Editor: Mathieu Bouchard-Malo
No rating, 91 minutes.