Three Dramas from eOne Films
Gabrielle (December 20/13)
Gabrielle details a few eventful days in the life of Gabrielle Marion-Rivard's title character, a mentally-handicapped young woman whose first-time romantic feelings arrive just as she's due to perform in a big musical show. It's consequently not surprising to discover that Gabrielle has been infused with a pervasively low-key feel, as writer/director Louise Archambault, for the most part, emphasizes the central character's subdued day-to-day exploits (eg Gabrielle goes to work, Gabrielle and friends hit a karaoke club, etc). The movie's watchable atmosphere is heightened by Marion-Rivard's impressive performance and by the dramatic heft of certain sequences, with, in terms of the latter, Archambault's emphasis on affecting moments - eg Gabrielle is forbidden to see the object of her affection by his mother, Gabrielle meets a musical idol, etc - ensuring that the film is, from time to time, far more moving and emotionally impactful than one might've anticipated. (It doesn't hurt, of course, that Gabrielle is slowly-but-surely developed into a thoroughly compelling figure that the viewer can't help but root for and sympathize with.) And although the film's climactic stretch, set at an outdoor concert, seems to go on much too long, Gabrielle ultimately manages to establish itself as an endearing and engaging little drama that benefits substantially from Marion-Rivard's captivating turn as the central character.
Jesus Henry Christ (December 29/13)
Aggressively, painfully quirky, Jesus Henry Christ follows young Henry James Herman (Jason Spevack) as he embarks on a journey to discover the identity of his biological father (Michael Sheen's Slavkin) - with Henry's quest raising the ire of his mother (Toni Collette's Patricia) and, eventually, bringing him into contact with Slavkin's morose daughter (Samantha Weinstein's Audrey). Filmmaker Dennis Lee has infused Jesus Henry Christ with a pervasively (and self-consciously) off-kilter feel that proves oppressive right from the get-go, with the movie's atmosphere of deadpan silliness preventing the viewer from connecting to either the material or the characters on a consistent basis - which, in turn, ensures that the film possesses a shockingly unwatchable feel that persists virtually from start to finish. It's difficult to determine just what Lee originally set out to accomplish with this ill-advised mess, and one can't help but marvel at the writer/director's ongoing emphasis on elements of an almost eye-rollingly misguided nature (eg a caucasian character who continually attempts to pass himself off as black). Far more incredible/problematic are Lee's last-minute efforts at infusing the narrative with earnest and heartfelt attributes, as the superficial bent of the film's opening hour results in a lack of emotional resonance that's palpable - thus confirming Jesus Henry Christ's place as a disastrous piece of work that thoroughly squanders the efforts of an incongruously talented cast.
Mars and April (January 7/14)
Written and directed by Martin Villeneuve, Mars and April, which unfolds in an extremely distant future, follows a beautiful photographer (Caroline Dhavernas' Avril) as she becomes infatuated with an elderly musician named Jacob Obus (Jacques Languirand) - with Avril's efforts at getting close to the older man thwarted on a consistent basis by Jacob's closest associate (Paul Ahmarani's Arthur). The degree to which Villeneuve immediately alienates the viewer is nothing short of remarkable, as the filmmaker, working from his own graphic novel, has infused Mars and April with an almost extraordinarily off-putting visual style that's exacerbated by an overuse of computer-generated effects (ie there's not a single moment here that feels even remotely real or authentic). Villeneuve offers up a futuristic landscape that's rife with unreasonably off-the-wall elements (eg musical instruments are designed with body parts), with the movie's less-than-convincing environment perpetuated by an abundance of one-dimensional, aggressively quirky figures. The hands-off atmosphere persists right through to the movie's incomprehensible final stretch, which ultimately cements Mars and April's place as an art-school experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong.
no stars out of