VIFF Film Review: Ville-Marie is an Unconventional Ode to Life

Ville-Marie is a film both ingrained with life – and reflective of it – opening with death and closing with a newborn baby.VIFF Film Review

This polarity between life and death is inherent throughout the film. Reminiscent of Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004), Ville-Marie follows various individual characters whose stories are intertwined in ways they don’t realize. The film opens with 21-year-old Thomas standing at a bus stop, when a tragedy sets a series of events in motion. His mother Sophie comes to visit, bringing with her the possibility of finding his father’s identity.

At the same time, the film follows Marie, a nurse at the local hospital, where various characters find themselves at different points of the film, for different reasons. The title, Ville-Marie, is translated to “City of Marie”, which is both Montreal where Marie lives (Ville-Marie is actually a borough in the center of Montreal), as well as the hospital where she spends most of her day – each have a strong presence in the film.

Sophie and Marie lead somewhat parallel lives. Both are mothers, who are dedicated to their careers, and less dedicated to their children. While Sophie is a famous actress living an aesthetically lavish lifestyle overflowing with fancy clothes and expensive meals, Marie lives modestly, spending most of her time at the hospital, coming home occasionally to eat cold takeout and watch television. Each with a different source of loneliness, as well as their own reasons for being distant mothers, the film slowly uncovers their demons.

The film also has a strong presence of unrequited love. Thomas, who we deduce has just been dumped by his boyfriend, is now in love with an unavailable man. Marie, despite being a somewhat absent mother, loves Thomas deeply, but he remains bitter from her abandonment. Marie’s son yearns for her love and presence, but she keeps herself at a distance from him. Director Guy Edoin has done an exquisite job of filling the absence of requited love with thrilling and raw moments of life.