Although there is a lack of fiction in the entertainment department that focuses too much on conveying its political message, this is by no means the case with Pier-Philippe Chevigny’s first feature film.
Updated at 7:30am yesterday.
Through the sophisticated production, the top-class cast and the careful script, Richelieu succeeds in making an impression, raising public awareness and keeping it on the edge of its seat. It’s a well-rounded film, an important film that leaves us better informed and, moreover, had an excellent time at the cinema.
Freshly separated from her partner and back in her hometown, Ariane (Ariane Castellanos) is the new French-Spanish interpreter at a food factory that employs Guatemalan workers. Over the course of her working days, she befriends the temporary workers and then puts up daily resistance to defend them from the exploitation to which they fall victim.
The conditions of these seasonal migrants, who are sometimes subjected to unimaginable abuse, is an issue that has been debated in Quebec for years. Although he had already inspired works (The Drunken Birds, The Time of the Raspberries), it was never as effective as Richelieu’s.
Gabriel Brault-Tardif’s photographic direction skillfully immerses us in everyday life using multiple sequence shots, tight framing and nervous movements characteristic of factory work. The thorough research – Chevigny traveled to Guatemala with actress Ariane Castellanos to collect a series of testimonies – is manifested both in the micro-details of the text and in the most powerful dramatic scenes.
There aren’t too many of these intense scenes either, and that’s a good thing. Thanks to his obvious qualities as an observer of power relations, Chevigny never falls into melodrama. We go into subtlety and nuance, which serves the purpose very well and allows us to fully understand the issue in a short period of time. Nonetheless, the scene where one of the workers, Manuel Morales (Nelson Coronado), is seriously affected by his working conditions, is muscular, is blood-curdling and grabs all the attention.
And let’s also mention the distribution, which fully does justice to this performance. It is thanks to his performance, especially the acting of Ariane Castellanos and Nelson Coronado, that the film unfolds its full potential. Their touching complicity adds a touch of sweetness to this story, which is more difficult than cheerful.
Marc-André Grondin shines in the role of the brittle and inflexible boss Stéphane. While his performance isn’t stellar, he manages to portray this skillfully written character who, if we look at the details, is far from just a tyrannical leader. Because he was subject to the authority of upper management, he likely experienced the dangers of blue-collar work before taking on this role of power.
We can’t wait to see what Pier-Philippe Chevigny has in store for Quebec cinema, as his role as a director undoubtedly has the potential to serve social justice. This shows that it’s not just documentary film that can be engaged.
Pier Philippe Chevigny
With Ariane Castellanos, Marc-André Grondin, Nelson Coronado and Luis Oliva