Tuesday, 22 May 2012

French Immersion Commentary

It's a good thing I watched this one on my way back to the West from Montreal.  It allowed me to see the differences between French and English Canada in a much more comedic way because I had just experienced them.  That comedic portrayal of the differences is the point of the whole movie.  French Immersion is about some people from all walks of life coming to a small Northern Quebec town to learn French in a two week immersion course that is the town's sole means of survival.  Throughout the time, you see them develop relationships and have their eyes opened to a different culture and way of life that is really not that different from their own.

This oddly synergistic dichotomy is basically the point of the movie.  It talks about how Quebec and the rest of Canada hate each other (which is largely true) but yet we still have a strong nation.  Through the relationships and interactions of the characters, you can see them growing closer together into a more cohesive unit even though they will always be separate on some level.  Fortunately, they didn't dwell too much on the political angle and get too philosophical with the audience.  That aspect of the movie is used more as a backdrop to develop a decent comedy.  And the comedy is good.  The pace is good and the writing is very smart.

The production of this film is very Canadian.  There is a fair amount of self-depricating humour and just slightly off the wall comedy that lies on the scale between typically American and typically British.  It's the kind of humour that allows us to poke fun at ourselves without contributing to the stereotypes about Canadians that some of us have come to detest.  The only way to fully understand this Canadian feel is to go out and watch movies and TV shows like this.  Once you've seen things like Men With Brooms, Corner Gas, Black Fly, etc., you will understand what I mean.  There isn't a lot of exposition as to why things happen. They just do and it's up to the audience's imagination to fill in the blanks that don't happen on screen.

In a way, that is also a setback for French immersion.  Because it is an ensemble cast, there are a lot of subplots going on all at once.  Without the proper expository scenes and dialogue, nothing is really developed in a properly synchronized way.  So the bouncing between story lines and character development seems a bit chaotic at times.  With this, I also need to talk about the story line with the Indian restauranteur and his new wife.  This subplot was completely unnecessary and was a real distraction from the rest of the film.  While it ran parallel with the others, it seemed to always be out of place.  And it ultimately led to an ending that winds up being bizarre and confusing.  Had they replaced that with some more focus on the rest of the ensemble, it would have been much better.

That notwithstanding, French Immersion is a very good contribution to a more mainstream style of Canadian movie.  It has the production quality and intelligent story to hold its own.  And the laughs are there to keep you entertained.  See it.

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