La Fille de Montréal: a humble portrait of everyday life in the city
Charming more than compelling, honest more than exciting, Jeanne Crépeau’s new film La Fille de Montréal (A Montreal Girl) doesn’t beg for superlatives, but as a humble portrait of everyday life in Montreal, it’s a pleasant reminder of a few things, good and bad, that make this city what it is.
Forced to leave her modest but beloved Plateau apartment of 25 years, a middle-aged woman reflects on life, love and friendship as she braces for change. The city is changing too and, with hiking rent prices, the filmmaker plans for the worst. A film about loss but also new opportunity, about the burdens but also the benefits of memory, La Fille de Montréal is memorably sincere in its candid reflections on life’s ups and downs, even if not quite as humorous or personally uplifting in its demure goings-on as it might hope to be.
From grief over the (actual) death of Duluth Street candy store owner Mr. Gillman, to snapshot introductions of local shopkeepers to the lamentably depicted destruction of the old Théâtre de Quat'Sous, where neighbourhood residents salvage pieces of the landmark building, La Fille de Montréal’s most intriguing and unique quality is the way in which it revels in the documentary, even as it tells a fictional story.
Crépeau seems to make an effort to present as many remembered aspects of this charismatic neighbourhood as possible, while keeping the film’s focus personal and driven by a plot (if only a simple one). With an eye for Montreal that’s as true-to-life as it is routed in personal memories and modest habits, the title character is Crépeau’s narrative tool for showing us a city whose character comes from the people that inhabit it. Moreover, their identity stems from their city's innate character. A decidedly pleasant notion for hometown viewers and foreign audiences alike, this idea is ostensibly the point of the film, as the title makes clear by story’s end.
From flashbacks to laughably simple (if clichéd) times with friends to tell-all lists of identity-defining memories, Crépeau presents viewers with a believable picture of life that, while plain at times, deliberately and appropriately avoids embellishment. With the seeming intention of making a film about a character who could quite easily be real (except for the fact that she’s not) and could even be written or shot by any of the city’s inhabitants, Crépeau presents a film that historically, sentimentally and visually reflects the true-life, everyday feel of the city it sets out to commend.