Torrid seas hide great secrets. It’s an observation that we’ve heard often. The harshest of landscapes, the most desolate of places, always have the most to hide. For her mysterious feature Les Loups, director Sophie Deraspe ventures to a region infrequently seen on screen, let alone in the flesh – the remote Îles-de-la-Madeleine region in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence off the east coast of Quebec. Quebecois cinema is long one that has made a name for itself in being one of the most distinctive and passionately embraced national cinemas in the world. A tangential description for its qualities is probably a mixture of European, American and Canadian cinematic sensibilities – it has the social consciousness of the French, the fascination with ideas of realism of the Americans, and the fearless singularity of the Canadians (that is mostly in part to the fact that Quebec has fabulous arts funding initiatives). But ultimately, its a style of expression that is as unique as the province itself, which fearlessly exerts itself and its unique culture as singular from the rest of the mostly Anglophone nation its contained in. The community in Les Loups is the secretive, tight-knit type we’re become familiar with in film. They fear any outsider, specifically Montreal import Elie (Evelyne Brochu), who they suspect is a journalist or activist come to disrupt their way of life, specifically their controversial seal hunts. Her reason for arriving, however, turns out to be much more simple than that. But for the duration of the film, which doesn’t pick a side, the two mindsets, politics, and environments of the city and the town clash, the primal tensions giving rise to the human drama on the screen. The town, just like the landscape, is unforgiving and breaking around the edges, and only the strongest can survive. At the centre of it all is Evelyne Brochu, arguably the Quebecois actress with the most exposure in the Anglophone world, and a performer that will hopefully soon break through into the mainstream, confirming herself as one of the most underused actors today. Like her work in Cafe de Flore, Tom at the Farm, and Orphan Black (where she pretty much stole season 3 with the least screen time of any supporting character), her presence is quiet but magnetic, a force that exerts itself through an innate understanding of body language to create layered portrayals. Her mastery lingers long after the final frame flickers across the screen.

Rating: 4/5


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