ND/NF 2011: Curling Review

Dustin Chang, Contributing Writer
Jean-François (Emmanuel Bilodeau), a shy middle aged divorcé and his twelve year-old bespectacled daughter, Julyvonne (Philoméne Bilodeau) arrive in the snow swept small town near Quebec. For some reason, JF is deathly afraid for his daughter's safety: he won't let her go to school or interact with anyone. Even when he is out working at a local motel and a bowling alley, he rather wants his daughter inside the house alone all day, studying by herself. Something must have happened prior. Julyvonne's mother is in jail. "The girl is retarded. There is nothing in her eyes!" yells the mother at JK in the visiting cell.

Treading somewhere between Fargo and The Sweet Hereafter, Curling is all about keeping in mind what's left out of its rather simple narrative while watching it. The film's full of loose threads that don't lead you anywhere. Our father and daughter keep to themselves with their blank faces, doing their daily routines, thus obliterating their rather scary surroundings.

Working under scruffy Kennedy, the owner of the bowling alley and Isabelle, his goth-girl cousin, JF/Moustache (as he is called because he dons a thick one), slowly lets his guard down and lets his daughter hang with the local crowd a bit. Julyvonne finds her own darker Alice in Wonderland-like adventure in the frozen forest near their house populated with a tiger and frozen dead bodies. Their actions are at times strange and unorthodox, but it's in their damaged stares that speaks volumes.

Unlike Fargo, which is a tightly written, ultimately soulless genre exercise, Curling, even with all the oddities, is much more humanistic. It demands audiences to invest in JF and Julyvonne's lives because you care for them by the end. The real life father-daughter team (Emmanuel and Philoméne Bilodeau) does an amazing job conveying their damaged characters' fear and resolve through their silences. The film's not all dread though. There are many humorous moments (including the curling fantasy scene) and unexpected tenderness throughout. Winner of the Best Director award at Locarno Film Festival 2010, Curling is written and directed by a French Canadian director Denis Côté.  Anchored by the down-to-earth performances from his two leads, Côté skillfully balances the film from going too quirky or too dark. It's one of those films that will linger in your head for days.

Curling plays as a part of New Directors New Films series at MoMA and Film Society of Lincoln Center: 3/26 at 6:15pm and 3/27 at 3:30pm. For more information and tickets, please click on this link

Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions of the world can be found at dustinchang.com


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