TIFF 2021: “Maria Chapdelaine”

© 2021 Laurence Granbois Bernard – Pionniers Productions inc.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Period dramas are hard to tackle, especially the ones based on novels. There is always someone who will find a certain aspect of the story missing in the film. However, at the end of the day, what matters is the concept, the message it delivers, and the hearts of many it’s about to touch, the same way “Maria Chapdelaine” does.

Maria Chapdelaine (Sara Montpetit) is a seventeen-year-old young woman who lives with her parents on a remote farm in Northern Quebec. She is beautiful and hardworking. Her parents, Samuel (Sébastien Ricard) and Laura (Hélène Florent) work tirelessly but their biggest priority is their daughter, Maria, who has reached marriageable age. Having three suitors seems to give enough opportunity for Maria and her family to make the most important decision that will shape the fate of their beautiful family.

Lorenzo Surprenant (Robert Naylor) does not believe in life on the farm and prefers moving to the US where he has taken a factory job. He paints an excellent and idyllic life for Maria where she does not have to work a day in her life, while Lorenzo will provide her everything she requires to be fulfilled and loved every day. Eutrope Gagnon (Antoine Olivier Pilon), Maria’s next-door neighbor is shy and cannot promise the world the way Lorenzo did. But he has an idea of a life he can give to Maria because he loves her more than words can describe. But Maria’s heart leans towards François Paradis (Émile Schneider), who has a few bad habits but promises to be back by spring if she waits for him. Maria prefers François but is she destined to marry him and live happily ever after is the biggest question the film is yet to answer.

Directed by Sébastien Pilote, the film handsomely delivers the essence of romance, charming cinematography, and the harsh winter that surely has its own say in this beautiful story. From start to end, it’s a slow burning drama that unfolds as slowly as it could. But that’s not a bad thing. With stories like this, the film looks for a right path, takes it, and goes towards that direction, in which you fully grasp the journey of the Chapdelaine family, the three suitors, and Maria Chapdelaine herself who, despite her young age, is capable of making a wise decision when the time comes. And be sure about it – she won’t make a mistake.

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