Québec-Montréal (2002)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Québec-Montréal</strong> (2002)

(In French, On Cable TV, November 2018) There are a few contextual explanations worth detailing in explaining Québec-Montréal to those who aren’t familiar with the region. The Province of Québec’s two biggest cities are Montréal and Québec (the last of which being the provincial capital). There are two major highways going from one to the other: The older 40, north of the Saint-Lawrence River, that’s a bit shorter but often slower given the Trois-Rivières bottleneck, and the newer highway 20, south of the Saint-Lawrence, which is often longer but faster. Given the proportion of Québécois living in either Montréal or Québec (or, like myself, living near Ottawa but having to drive to Québec for various reasons), driving the 20 has become an extensively shared experience for most French-Canadians. You can meet random people and talk about the Madrid (and its disappointing 2.0 incarnation), the Drummondville St-Hubert, the train tracks near the Québec approach, or the traffic mess that invariably accompanies the Montréal approach and you’re nearly certain to have something in common with anyone who ever drove the route. This background is not essential in explaining the plot elements of Québec-Montréal (which revolves around a few people driving from Québec to Montréal and having dramatic conversations and experiences along the way), but it certainly sets the quasi-mythical stage for the experience. Writer/director Ricardo Troggi, then 32, uses the long drive as a backdrop to present four road trips and nine characters whose lives take a dramatic turn along the way. The dialogues are very good, but the screenplay also plays games in having complex relationships between the characters—there was a point in the movie where I audibly laughed at an added revelation that wrapped up the mosaic of links. Québec-Montréal is a surprisingly easy film to watch, the rhythm of the background (almost always moving along with the characters) propelling the film forward even if much of it is a series of conversations. The film isn’t afraid to side-step reality in a series of oneiric segments, adding a bit of whimsy to the otherwise reality-based story. Unfortunately, and I’m not sure if I have to blame Québec-Montréal’s production values or the otherwise decent Cable TV channel on which I watched the film, but what I saw had a very poor picture quality and washed-out colours—not a big problem for a film so chiefly dialogue-based, but a disappointment nonetheless. Still, I liked the result: I’m not identifying with any of the characters, but they’re entertaining and the film isn’t afraid to go in sad places for the conclusion of their stories. Predictable spoiler alert: Unlike most people who drive “up” the 20 (“down” follows the flow of the Saint-Laurent River to Québec), many of the film’s characters won’t make it to Montréal.

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