FILM REVIEWS: Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse and Room

A decade later, a sequel to the film that made Mathieu Almaric famous PLUS an Oscar contender about captivity.


Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet in Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse

The Festival du nouveau cinéma runs through Oct. 18. Here are reviews of two films that have their first screenings at the festival today and tomorrow.

Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse

About 20 years after Comment je me suis disputé (ma vie sexuelle), French director Arnaud Desplechin goes back to where it all started with his prequel Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse.

Mathieu Amalric once again plays the role that made him famous, that of Paul Dédalus, but this time he takes on a supporting role, as most of the film is a flashback to his youth. It opens with Amalric leaving Tajikistan to return to Paris, getting stopped at the border due to problems with his passport. He’s brought to a dank basement room where a strange tall man starts interviewing him, prompting Amalric to open up about his childhood and teenage years, as if Desplechin couldn’t figure out a simpler way to do so. We never even find out who’s interviewing him.

Dédalus’s memories are divided into three chapters: his childhood, his trip to Minsk and his love story with the gorgeous Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet). While Antoine Bui takes over the role of Dédalus as a child struggling with his mother’s mental illness and subsequent death, it’s the beautiful Quentin Dolmaire who steals the spotlight for most of the film as the teenager sneaking unknown documents into the USSR, falling in love and living the life of an impoverished student in Paris.

As I’d never seen Desplechin’s first film, it’s impossible to compare, but I’d say there’s no need to see it to enjoy this charming trip down memory lane. It doesn’t purport to detail or explain the bigger picture; Desplechin’s flash to the USSR is quite clichéd and caricatural. It’s a story that could be taking place in any era and Desplechin places no importance to time or place, although we do see a teenage Dédalus watching the fall of the Berlin wall, claiming it as the “end of his childhood.” It mainly serves to show us pretty, romantic vignettes of a man’s memories of youth. (Roxane Hudon)

Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse screens at Concordia’s Hall Building (1455 de Maisonneuve W., H-110) on Sunday, Oct. 11, 8 p.m. and again at Quartier Latin Cinema (350 Emery) on Oct. 18, 6 p.m.



Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in Room

There are tons of movies about saving someone from an abduction; about the race against time to find the abductee, about the heroic freeing of the abductee from their captors… There are few if any films that delve into the psychology of abduction and seclusion like Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. Adapted from Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name, it follows the lives of Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and Ma (Brie Larson), whose entire lives are contained within the small fortified shed they call Room. Ma has lived there for seven years, ever since Old Nick kidnapped her off the street and forced her to live in Room. As Jack turns five, however, Ma struggles to explain the limitations of their world to his ever-expanding mind, and she devises a plan to get them out.

Based in part on the Josef Fritzl case, Room can be emotionally draining but is ultimately a captivating and rewarding experience thanks in large part to exceptional performances by its leads. Abrahamson sometimes struggles with the tone — it has to be said that this is some extremely touchy material, and it’s hard to fault Abrahamson for wanting to pull back as much as possible. There’s almost certainly too much cutesy voiceover from Tremblay for something that’s fundamentally so dark, and the score can dip into the distractingly cloying, but Brie and Tremblay are nothing short of amazing. If Short Term 12’s critical success didn’t really push Brie into the mainstream, this almost certainly will. (Alex Rose)

Room screens at Quartier Latin Cinema (350 Emery) today, Saturday, Oct. 10, 9 p.m. and again on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1:30 p.m.


Buy tickets and see the complete Festival du nouveau cinéma program here.