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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 02.22.11] Canada movie review news drama

Year: 2010
Director: Denis Côté
Writer: Denis Côté
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Julyvonne is captive. At 12 she has never been to school, hasn’t participated in team sports and rarely ventures into town. She lives on the outskirts with her father Jean-Francois and spends most of her days wondering around the nearby woods. JP, or Moustache as he is amicably nicknamed by his boss at the bowling alley at which he works, is a nice enough man but a controlling one. He has no TV, music is closely monitored and he keeps his daughter out of the public eye under the guise of protection. This is the world in which Denis Côté’s Curling unravels.

Curling is a deceptively demure film about a man struggling with his inner demons and a little girl in search of escape but Côté’s film touches so lightly on the morbid and bizarre that it’s easy to overlook the bigger issues that are hinted at and which come up throughout the film. One of Curling’s ongoing plots involves the pressure on JP to allow his daughter to go to school. He insists that she is learning at home and yet at various intervals throughout we see that Julyvonne, while bright in many ways, is incapable of simple math. On more than one occasion it seems as though JP might give in and yet the film ends with no resolution.

Though there’s no mention of it or any clear indication that any physical abuse is going on, the film’s two main musical selections are Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” and Stacey Q’s “Tow of Hearts,” both of which we hear as JP unwinds with his daughter at home after dinner. The selections are so bizarre that I can’t help but think that Côté is hinting at something more and yet, when he feels completely deflated, JP abandons his daughter for a few days and has a sexual encounter with a woman in a nearby town, returning home refreshed and ready to tackle the world.

Côté’s film is full of painfully obvious symbolism, the caged tiger which reflects Julyvonne’s situation, the game of curling which not only provides the film’s title but a metaphor for JP’s life, but others, such as the dead bodies that Julyvonne discovers in the woods, are a little harder to make sense of. Julyvonne makes a habit of laying in the woods next to the bodies – do they provide her with some sort of escape? I’m not sure.

Côté’s most impressive feat is making us sympathize with JP when we should really be mindful of this man who seems to suffer from some sort of psychological illness. Actor Emmanuel Bilodeau gives this otherwise pathetic character humanity and Côté allows us to feel sorry for him: for losing his job, for being unable to pursue a romantic relationship, for giving up extracurricular activities to concentrate on his daughter. And just when you’re comfortable feeling sorry for this guy, Côté gives us another reason to hate him. It’s a balancing act that plays with the viewers’ emotions and many, myself included, will walk away unsure of what to make of it.

Curling is an odd film but under the strangeness, Côté has created an unflinching look at the twisted psyche of a man. It’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s anything wrong with JP but the more I think about the film, the more his character and actions bother me. This is definitely not a film everyone will enjoy; it tests patience and forces the viewer to turn a critical eye to what they’ve just seen. It’s not the kind of film you watch and forget about tomorrow. It’s a quietly unsettling experience and one that requires more than one, or even two viewings, to make sense of.

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Skuggs (10 years ago) Reply

Great review, dude. Like yourself, I'd gander that the director was indeed hiding a sinister theme within the main film itself. And again, like you, I believe it was of Chickenhawk nature.

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