Inspired by Robert Bresson’s classic Mouchette, the new film from Catherine Martin (Trois temps après la mort d’Anna, L’esprit des lieux) follows a teenage girl who flees an unbearable home life for the rugged beauty of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula.
Une Jeune Fille (A journey)
In the opening scenes of Catherine Martin's affecting and resonant Une jeune fille (A journey), teenager Chantal (Ariane Legault) loses her ailing mother, her sole confidante. The death leaves Chantal, the only breadwinner in the family, alone with her father, a man more interested in living off her than caring for her. Faced with this untenable situation, Chantal flees their bleak apartment on the side of a highway for the rugged, isolated Gaspé Peninsula. Her only point of reference is a photo of a bluff where her mother played as a child. During her wanderings, she meets Serge (actor/musician Sébastien Ricard), a quiet man in his thirties struggling to hang on to his family farm despite his sister's frequent pleas to sell it. Pushed together by circumstance, these two habitual loners endeavour to create a home together.
Reminiscent of Agnès Varda's Vagabond and directly inspired by Robert Bresson's classic Mouchette, Une jeune fille is breathtakingly beautiful in the way it captures the ominous glory of the region, as well as in its depiction of Chantal and Serge, two obdurate types who never had much time for others but somehow find a kindred spirit in one another. Few films capture the loneliness and difficulty of surviving in a harsh landscape in such a tactile manner. When Chantal wanders the Gaspé, spending her last bits of change on food, we practically feel her hunger pangs. Legault and Ricard are equally adept at conveying the anguish at the heart of their characters.
Before he began making films, the
American writer-director Paul Schrader
wrote a tract about the transcendental
style in films, a way of filmmaking that
suggested a sense of the holy, a purpose to
life — a destiny — that couldn't be adequately
articulated but was felt nonetheless. When
at her peak, as she is here, Martin displays
that very awareness, and the awe that
accompanies it, while acknowledging the
grief it sometimes takes to awaken us to it.