Blimey. We don’t half think outside the box on some of our choices, eh?
This one could be considered one of our most art-housey perhaps, though it’s not as strange as I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, nor is it anywhere as quirky as the amazing The Foxy Merkins (which I realise I only gave a 4/5 rating which seems like a travesty in hindsight as I think of it fondly, and often).
However, I’m glad it was chosen as this is not something I ever would have picked of my own volition, so thank you for that, Jillian.
We’re regrettably nearing the finish line of Feminist February and I think it’s been a corker. I now feel some pressure to chose well for next week (checking the calendar shows me that we actually have two more feminist picks before we round it up, so there’s still hope of going out with a bang).
But for now, to the movie. As always, take care of *spoilers*.
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (2013)
Director: Denis Côté
Stars: Pierrette Robitaille, Romane Bohringer, Marc-André Grondin
IMDB Synopsis: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear is a darkly mysterious tale of two lesbian ex-cons, Victoria and Florence, trying to make a new life in the backwoods of Quebec.
Victoria has evidently just been released from prison, having received a life sentence. I could be wrong but I’m sure whatever it is she did is never revealed (I might have been texting).
While this may be the sentence she’s received, Victoria is not destined to spend all that time behind bars. Instead she has moved to the back-and-beyond of rural Quebec to live at her brother’s place, a former sugar mill.
Her brother is not really around but does pop in once to see Victoria, who has taken it upon herself to take over the primary care of her Uncle Émile Champagne (Georges Molnar), much to the annoyance of his current carer, Charlot Smith (Pier-Luc Funk) and his horrible father, Nicholas (Olivier Aubin). Émile is in a wheelchair and cannot communicate at all.
Vic also receives bi-weekly visits from her parole officer, Guillaume who means well but is rather serious and by-the-book (but also super cute). While Victoria adjusts to her new life in the sticks, where she gets from A to B by golf cart, she pines for her lover Florence.
One day Florence arrives at her new abode and to say she’s a little underwhelmed by the amenities would be an understatement. She’s unimpressed with almost everything and it soon becomes painfully apparent that this woman has a touch of the Madame Bovary about her.
“I do all my best brooding in the nude.”
Flo visits the one local bar and goes home with a man she meets there (they don’t play Scrabble, knowwhatI’msayin’?). It’s a fleeting liaison (because it turns out he’s not available either) but it still happened. She also starts to make Vic paranoid by talking about how hot Guillaume is (true, but still). Vic begins to worry that she isn’t enough for Flo and although Flo says the right things, she doesn’t try that hard to convince Vic.
Meanwhile, Uncle Émile is moved into ‘proper care’ following a complaint about the level he’s been receiving at home from Vic. This comes from The Smiths, who have it in for Vic, possibly because of her previous conviction. So Émile moves on and the women are left alone in the woods.
Guillaume has come round to both women since meeting Flo and is happy with the progress they have made, even if he does expect more in the way of integration into the ‘community’.
He needn’t worry too much though as Vic makes a friend called Marina St-Jean (Marie Brassard), who is a little over-familiar but overall quite fun. She takes a shine to Vic and goes out of her way to help her nurture her garden (not a euphemism, but you do wonder). She also asks permission to ride her quad through Vic’s land when she needs to. Vic says it’s cool.
Waiting for their next delivery of sensible shoes
Did I mention that Vic is 61 and Flo is considerably younger (like, late thirties maybe)? This has a lot to do with why Vic is worrying so much about losing her girlfriend, who evidently, like most girls, just wants to have fun.
One day, Marina awkwardly brings up with Vic the fact that Flo owes money at the bar. It turns out Marina also manages it when she’s not working for the Canadian version of the council (which is how she originally meets Vic). Vic pays Marina the £215 Flo owes and although she’s annoyed, she doesn’t think much of it.
Flo doesn’t let it slide quite so easily and storms down to the bar to confront Marina. Trouble is, there is no Marina and no unpaid bar tab. So what does that mean? Well, it turns out Florence has something of a past of her own and it seems to involve a woman called Jackie (who Vic knows as Marina), still following?
Jackie is hench as fuck and has her own henchman (Ramon Cespedes), who doesn’t even have his own name on IMDB, just ‘Jackie’s Assistant’. We don’t know what Flo did but it involved some sort of betrayal a decade before (pretty sure they don’t tell us what she did, could be wrong again). Perhaps she broke Jackie’s heart?
“I’m so jealous of your amazing hammock! IKEA?”
Eventually, Jackie catches up with Flo and the main thing I felt about this is disappointment that Marina/Jackie is horrible and therefore not the perfect match I hoped she’d be for Vic. But hey-ho. Jackie, or rather her assistant then does something terrible to Flo which renders her immobile for several weeks.
Vic doesn’t absolutely hate this development as it means Flo is unable to go seeking something better and she reacts accordingly, more affectionate and loving, etc. Flo picks up on this because she’s a smart cookie and the couple fight. Flo can’t understand why Vic can’t live more in the moment which basically means, stop questioning her and let her do whatever the shit she wants, when she wants.
Poor Uncle Émile doesn’t fare too well in this film and The Horrible Smiths pay Vic a visit to shout at her for being shit after he passes away. I don’t really think this is that fair as Vic did look after him. Sure, she’s not really a hearts and flowers type but she isn’t cruel, that I can see.
“I thought we agreed I’d wear the denim today, Vic?”
The pair go on a day trip with Guillaume to see some trains and some fish, and while Vic goes for a smoke (of course, another smoking flick!), G and F discuss Vic, and their relationship. Flo says she’s going to take Vic down to the lake for ‘a talk’. Guillaume tells Flo that Vic reminds him of his mother.
Flo gets better, things start to look up and then something really horrific (and weird) happens to the pair. I won’t give absolutely everything away but it’s fucked up. Let’s ponder some questions instead, shall we?
What will become of our lovers? Will they end up together, or will Florence spread her wings and fly far away? These questions will be answered I guarantee it, whilst even more will pop up and slap you in the mush while you’re trying to figure what the fudge is going down.
“Let’s put all our vests together in one collection, it’ll be ‘armless.”
Hm. This was surprisingly compelling for a film that doesn’t contain that much action. It’s basically a meditation on love and desire, and wanting something you’re so terrified of losing that is stops you from really living and enjoying that thing. PHEW.
The central performances are fine. Vic is all chocolate eyes and frown lines, and I sort of identify with her fear of ageing and leaving her lover behind (or being left behind). I mean, not literally but ageing is a big thing on my mind of late and there’s nothing anyone can do to slow it down.
The ending is crazy and almost jars against the slow pace of the rest of the film, but actually it works okay. It’s very dark and I sort of adore Jackie. I wish we got more of her.
From a femme POV, all the men apart from Guillaume are completely ineffective or steaming pieces of shit. Or they’re completely disposable sex objects (excellent). This is a woman’s film but it’s anything but sweet and fluffy – it’s hard, thought provoking, ugly, poignant and sad.
My Rating: 3.5/5. Odd and by no means terrible.
So where does Jillian come in on this? Is she trapped in a wooded clearing of indifference, or is she so happy she could restart the sugar mill and live happily ever after in virtual isolation? Find out for yourself here, bitches, don’t make me get my assistant onto you.