À l'ouest de Pluton (Henry Bernadet & Myriam Verreault, 2008)
A mosaic look at a day in the lives of twelve Quebec high schoolers strikingly captures the unique nature of the teenage years.
This little known movie entirely shot in Quebec City, Loretville to be more precise, the suburb I grew up in, is a superb independent work of cinema. Far from being the regular coming of age story. We follow a group of teenagers doing what teenagers do in their evenings and interacting between themselves, their parents, and teachers. There is nothing very extraordinary going on in À l’ouest de Pluton. This is life at its simplest and raw form.
The story is almost nonexistent since we kind of follow the teens and that it has a natural and almost documentary feeling of the camera of the filmmakers. In an interview, they said that it was an important collaboration with the young non actors. They were always making adjustments on the situations, the action, the dialogues to make it feel more real and less staged.
The cast is almost entirely formed of non actors and they are pretty much all very natural in their roles. Well, they seem to be themselves and not play a part. It reminds the films of Abbas Kiarostami or some foreign filmmaker that pictures life and the little moments of banality that populates the most common moments of our existence more than the typical Hollywoodian clichés of High School movies. It can also be linked with one of the best films of the genre and one of the most unique films of the 1990’s Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.
The documentary approach here can relate to the great masterpieces of fellow Quebecer filmmakers Denys Arcand, Pierre Perreault, and Michel Brault. The first films from Québec to really distinguish themselves were documentaries. We often forget about that and I suspect Verreault and Bernadet to have made a reference and being influenced by those greats.