Familiar Ground is a compelling new Franch-Canadian movie, that sees a strangely distant brother and sister connected after a man from the future comes to warn brother Benoit (Francis La Haye) that his sister Maryse (Fanny Mallette) is going to go on a trip that will end her life.
Watching Familiar Ground is a very calming experience, all of it’s characters are incredibly laid back even in times of turmoil, and writer/director Stephane Lafleur is in no hurry to get to the point. Instead the director gives us some beautifully framed visuals, set against some of the most stunning snowy Canadian backgrounds.
There is often something a little dated about movies and TV shows that come from Canada, in the 70’s and 80’s our TV screens were inundated by various imports from the country, and even back then everything felt about ten years behind, in respects of buildings and fashions, let alone lifestyle. This being said of late this cultural divide has depleted somewhat, this is of course until Familiar Ground. You might argue that Familiar Ground is almost made as a tourist information movie about Canada, because something about it just feels so inviting, you really want to be there, even though the characters are ankle deep in snow. Something about the locations, the shooting, and the fashions (designed for warmth not style) somehow make you think of a much simpler, more straightforward time. If it were not for the presence of certain technology, you would honestly think the movie was made or at least set in the 1970’s. I labour on this fact so much because for this author, this is what really sold the movie to me, I really wanted to be part of the movie.
The characters in the movie are incredibly quirky, Benoit simply cannot get anything right, he cannot get his snow-sledge to work properly, his relationship is at risk because of his girlfriends almost demonic son, and all in all Benoit is just a failure, he cannot even win a fight with a snowman. Maryse on the other hand is a bit down, the snow digger outside her house is bringing her down, but this is a metaphor for the fact that her relationship with her husband is also getting her down. You feel that Maryse has missed out on a crucial part of her life, that she misses the romance of being in a relationship, of being in love.
Familiar Ground is a very slow burning movie, you may well argue that it is a film about nothing, but this is no weakness, in fact it is the strength, the passion, the beating heart, of this much loved, heartfelt movie.
Familiar Ground is showing as part of the Raindance film festival in London, today (28th September 2012) at 3.15pm. It is uncertain as to whether a release of the movie in the UK will happen in the near future.