Until we learn otherwise, it is the ones who made us who we turn to with our most open heart — and the ones who have the capacity to hurt us the deepest. This week’s Staff Pick Premiere is a knot-in-stomach-inducing drama impressively written, directed, and acted in by Ève Saint-Louis that depicts this unfortunate fact so viscerally.
“The Journey” is Saint-Louis’ directorial debut (!), which follows Chantale, a young woman on her way home from Paris after a year away from her Canadian family. To her dismay, Chantale’s father offers to pick her up from the airport despite, the audience quickly learns, a fraught relationship. Chantale’s doe-eyed sweetness (played beautifully by Saint-Louis) is in direct contrast with her bitter father’s unfounded irritation (portrayed perfectly by Claude Laroche), resulting in a thick tension that is so intense its as if the actors reached offscreen to hand the viewer a bundle of anxiety. The dynamic is so effective in generating stress in the viewer, in fact, that those who have endured emotional abuse from loved ones should be aware that this film may be triggering.
“The Journey” will likely be a familiar story to many about complicated familial dynamics, and is a painful example of the unfortunate truth that sharing blood with another human being does not mean they will always have your best interests in mind.
We asked the multi-talented Éve Saint-Louis a few questions about her film, and are excited to share her answers with you upon its exclusive online debut:
“Family relationships. More specifically, what we dare not say about them. A rich, complex, universal subject of which I wanted to explore some unspoken and mysterious aspects: the feelings underlying our dialogues and the wounds that we bear. What I find interesting are the certainties and the taboos surrounding the family core. There is a strong belief you should forgive your family for everything, and defend it as if it were a sacred space. But then, what happens when such a relationship becomes toxic and to what point must it be endured? It was important for me to translate into images the idea that parentage does not guarantee intimacy, and that sometimes family can feel like strangers.”
On challenges faced:
“Since this was my first experience as a filmmaker, everything was challenging because everything was new. But, there is one particular challenge I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The house in the film was the hardest character to pin down, to find. I wanted a place that could represent the Father’s den, filled with objects and history, with a lowered ceiling weighing down on the characters and creating a sense of enclosure.”
On writing, directing, and acting as the lead:
“It all started with the urge to write that story, followed by the wish to bring it to the “big screen” myself. Well aware of how demanding theater directing could be, I knew full well directing for cinema would require considerable work. So, the thought of acting in it as well, made me hesitate and leave the issue open for a while. During that time, I drew inspiration from directors who combined both roles, and convinced myself to do the same.
I put all my energy into preparing for both roles of actor and director, and drew the clearest line possible between the two. As an actor, I set aside time slots to rehearse and visualize the scenes. I made this as a priority regardless of the pre-production stress that exists in any film. As a director, I did much the same and was fortunate to have an experienced Director of Photography I could lean on. When I arrived on set as Chantal, my artistic collaborator knew my intentions for the film and its overall perspective, so he could direct me as needed. My amazing team and our approach have allowed me to both act and direct at the same time.”
On finding the perfect location:
“Location scouting required driving for hours in Quebec winter, knocking on people’s doors, sometimes putting handwritten passionate letters in their mailbox just to show the owners my love for their house. The artistic director and I finally found the rare pearl. The first time I met the owners, they invited me in because, from inside, they thought it was their daughter showing on the doorstep. How lucky I was!”
Her advice to aspiring filmmakers:
“Persevere and trust your instinct. If you think a story is worth telling, then it usually is.”
On what’s next:
“I am currently working on my second short film as a screenwriter and director which I find quite exciting. Again, it takes place in winter. The story is about a group of friends who one night meet to go sledding and how, what starts as an ordinary outing, becomes a life-change”