Feature film “the canadian journey”: looking together in one direction

They all have more to say to each other than they think: Philippe Lioret’s feature film "The Canadian Journey" focuses on the intangible.

Mathieu (right, Pierre Deladonchamps) is on the road with Pierre (Gabriel Arcand) Photo: Temperclayfilm

A speaking title that gives nothing away. The only thing that is clear about Philippe Lioret’s "The Canadian Journey" is that it is not about just any journey, but a specific one. A trip to Canada that will be formative for Mathieu (Pierre Deladonchamps). At the beginning, everything is still clear: Mathieu learns on the phone that his father Jean has died, and hears for the first time about two half-brothers. Everything else only gradually reveals itself out of the shadows. And it soon becomes clear that much of the film’s story is indeed staged and that the truths are somewhat complicated.

Mathieu, however, first flies to Canada and seeks the encounter. This works moderately, because the brothers are not very likeable contemporaries. One is only interested in the estate, the other mainly in liquor. The deceased Jean was rich and liked women, so Mathieu soon wonders if he might not find unknown siblings all over the world. It is never cleared up.

Jean took all the truths with him to the grave when he fell off the fishing boat and disappeared without a trace from the living world, submerged in a lake with no name: "Just lake," says Jean’s friend and colleague Pierre (Gabriel Arcand). And to Mathieu, it makes sense: "Like me. Father unknown." He looks sullenly at the water.

French actor Pierre Deladonchamps, who plays Mathieu, is remembered for his enigmatic performance in Alain Guiraudie’s "The Stranger by the Lake," a film that reaped awards at Cannes in 2013. Since then, Deladonchamps has starred in seven feature-length films that were virtually invisible in Germany. When he now becomes visible once again, it is once again abundantly difficult to turn away from his play: because of the stories he seems to carry within himself. And because of his way of looking around very carefully, eyeing his surroundings and the people around him with caution and a little skepticism.

"The Canadian Journey." Directed by Philippe Lioret. With Pierre Deladonchamps, Gabriel Arcand and others. France 2016, 98 min.

Such a silent actor needs the screen. Only there it becomes possible to follow his cryptic facial expressions. The French poster quite rightly shows his face in cross-section across the entire size, peering out to the side into the distance.

They all have more to say to each other than they realize

Deladonchamps reappears here in a film interested in the intangible. In this case, the intangible between people. Philippe Lioret builds his film primarily around the encounters and conversations of Mathieu, Pierre and Pierre’s family. They all have more to say to each other than they think. But they don’t know that yet when Mathieu gets off the plane in Quebec at the beginning. Therefore, they keep taking a closer look.

All the characters seem to know each other from a previous life that never happened.

In general, there is a lot of looking. Together, the characters sometimes look in the same direction, for example in the scene at the lake. Or one person in the background looks at another far in the front of the picture, unnoticed for a moment. Again and again, people are in the picture in pairs, while the focus shifts back and forth between them. Because there are constantly unspoken, diffuse relationships between the people.

The diffuse spills over into the conversations, and soon questions of familial and romantic love buzz through the room, of intuitive connections across distances of time and place. Everyone seems to know each other from a previous life that never happened. Bringing fragmented biographies to mind is certainly not wrong in times of so many migration fates.