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Film Review: The painful past persists in What We Have

By Sanita Fejzić on October 23, 2015



I am certain that What We Have / Ce qu’on a is one of the best films featured at this year’s Inside Out Film Festival and I say this even though I’ve only reviewed a handful of the movies they have lined up until this Sunday at the Bytown Cinema. If you had but one film to see at this year’s LGBTQ film festival, this is the one. The cinematography is superb and the delicate narrative that manages to couple the fragile with the violent will leave you aligned with Telefilm Canada’s decision to back the vision of writer-director Maxime Desmons.

Desmons also plays the main character, Maurice, who is an introverted French actor and tutor that’s recently moved to North Bay. Often with a cigarette in his mouth, Maurice is a strange and quiet expat, refusing to socialize with his fellow actors at the small theatre company where he plays the role of a minister. He will cruise the local woods and pick up guys, but his inability to form intimate relationships with other men is generalized. If people his age turn him off, his behaviour with the young adolescent he tutors, Alain, is quite the opposite. With Alain (Alex Ozerov), Maurice can smile, laugh, joke and becomes altogether another kind of man.

Shot in Toronto and North Bay, the water imagery in the movie echoes Maurice’s shifting emotional states and his constant flow back to his childhood. The character is submerged with flashbacks that bring him back to his youth in France, where he started his career on stage alongside his mother and stepfather. The past and present collide like water crashing on a bed of rocks to give this movie a finale that is like tranquil waters after an intense storm. Nothing in this movie is overly dramatic even if there are moments of rage and violence. The tone is nuanced, sensitive and unpretentious, just like the acting. I can say no more without giving the movie away.

There is also an interesting resonance to one of my personal favourites, Brokeback Mountain: Roberta MaxwellAlex Ozerov and Kristen Thomson all star in What We Have. The mega-narrative of self-acceptance and of coming to terms with what appears to be socially impossible, ties these two films together in interesting ways. Expect to hear French and English, with subtitles. The two languages, like Maurice’s past and the present, echo the transition of the character as he moves from Europe to Canada, and as he comes to terms with himself.View the trailer below:


What We Have plays at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday October 24, 2015 (tomorrow) at the Bytown Cinema. For more info, click here



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