Incendies burns up the big screen

If you want your heart ripped out of your chest, kicked around on the floor for a bit and shoved back down your throat then this is the film to see.

Incendies is the latest film from renowned Montreal-based filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, director of the award-winning Polytechnique and Maelström. It’s an intense, unforgiving drama that aims to punch you right in the gut and will give you plenty to talk about by the time the credits roll.

The plot centres on the dying wish of a woman who sends her twin children Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) on a voyage to understand their past and the whereabouts of their unknown brother and father.

Jeanne and Simon undertake a trip to the Middle East in search of these newly realized family members and plunge into a world they had no idea existed. As they discover more and more of their family’s past, it becomes apparent that their mother led a life more harrowing and brutal than they had ever imagined. The film flashes back and forth between the twins’ journey and the story of their mother looking for her son as a young woman.

This movie isn’t for the faint of heart. There are scenes in the film that are hard to watch and the story surrounding the mother in particular is quite gruesome, but extraordinary at the same time. There are parts of the film that get confusing and disorienting because of all the flashbacks and time jumps, but that is part of what makes the film work. It becomes a mystery that you are trying to piece together and unravel.

The acting overall is superb, especially the part of the mother, played by Lubna Azabal, who is wonderful and heartbreaking all at once. With such serious subject matter at work, I think it would be easy to fall into clichés and over-dramatics, but all the actors are affecting in their performances. The director Denis Villeneuve is a master with the camera and knows how to create disturbing and dramatic visuals to help drive the story deeper into the dark places that it goes.

On Sunday night at the close of the Toronto International Film Festival, Incendies scooped up the prize for best Canadian feature and a purse of $30,000. The success of the film at the TIFF has already garnered Villeneuve a lot of critical acclaim and positive responses from the festival crowds. It’s become one of the standouts and has been selected for distribution across North America and internationally. It’s nice to see local talent recognized nationally and abroad as well, and he definitely deserves the accolades that he has received so far for the film.

Stay away from Incendies if you’re looking for a lighthearted romp. But if you want a challenging and engaging piece of filmmaking, by a talented local auteur, then check this film out.

Incendies is playing at the AMC Forum, among other theatres.


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