“The Descent”: Devastating Guilt

Filmmaker Gabriel Allard chose the right time to release his first feature film. While we talk much to reduce our alcohol consumption in recent days and that the sober January (Dry January) will give way to the 28 Days Without Alcohol Challenge in February, its riddle drama Lowering exposes the dangers of drunk driving in unprecedented violence in Quebec cinema.

The film opens with a horrific car accident scene. But it is not so much the physical violence as the psychological violence that marks the film. In fact, the protagonist, Mary-Jane (Catherine Bérubé), who finds herself among the victims of the accident which killed young children, must then face her own guilt and the remonstrances of the parents.

From the first minutes, a gloomy, almost supernatural atmosphere sets in. Mary-Jane seems more and more consumed by guilt, to the point of doing violence to herself. However, it is only at the very end that we learn why everyone is attacking her, since her role in the accident, linked to drunk driving, remains ambiguous until then.

take yourself too seriously

Gabriel Allard claims to have been inspired by Darren Aronofsky, and it shows in his film. Just like in the feature films of the American filmmaker The whale and Mother !, the intensity of the scenes increases in crescendo, to conclude with a surprising finale. We learn more, in this case, about what happened the evening of the accident. However, the scenario writer pours abundantly (too much) in the melodrama and the symbolism.

Self-produced and financed with the help of private sponsors, this low-budget genre film gives the impression of taking itself too seriously, so certain confrontations seem exaggerated. He would also have benefited from moments of slowing down, even humor. Fortunately, it manages to generate enough anticipation to support the intensity of its outcome.

An American in the Gaspé

The representation of territory and cultures in the film also raises questions. Mary-Jane is a professional American snowboarder, living alone in the Chic-Chocs to practice her sport. She does not speak French and all the characters speak English to each other without a Quebec accent, except for a few French words thrown here and there.

The film struggles to justify, in itself, such use of English. In an interview with CTVM Info, Gabriel Allard explains that “the idea of ​​the film [lui] came in English” and that “the desire to finance the film privately and [de] having it travel around the world reinforced the decision to do it in English”. Such a vision of cinema, where the use of the language of Shakespeare must be considered as a guarantee of greater international success, is disappointing.

There is no doubt, however, that the filmmaker, who indicates that he already has ideas for future feature films, will be able to correct the situation in the future. Lowering certainly contains several irritants, but also testifies to an energy and a passion for genre cinema that promises to be promising and necessary in the Quebec landscape.

The descent (VF de Snow Angel)

★★ 1/2

Enigma drama by Gabriel Allard. With Catherine Bérubé, Paul Doucet and Olivier Renaud. Canada, 2022.92 minutes. Indoors.

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“The Descent”: Devastating Guilt