Published Apr 20, 2013Because Quebecois documentarian Hugo Latulippe has an established background making films about musicians and political leaders, his quest to tell a personal story—one of his daughter; the titular Alphée—is far more technically apt and universalized than most works of this ilk. Having been born with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome, an extremely rare neurological disorder, Alphée has physical and cognitive differences that limit her capacity to assimilate to the developmental status quo expected in a regimented school system and, in turn, society.
Latulippe and his wife Laure Waridel didn't feel comfortable placing their daughter in a special needs school and instead opted to take a break from their Canadian lifestyles, placing their daughter in a progressive Swiss preschool near Hugo's childhood home. Alphée of the Stars documents this year in another country, infusing objective images of 5-year-old with subjective views of what her world appears to be as verbalized through her creative observations about an adjacent animal kingdom living in her mind.
It's these artistic montages and stylistic risks that help shape Latulippe's deeply personal film, finding a creative way to project the assertion that Alphée's difference is less of a deficiency than it is different perspective on worldly prioritization.
And even though this twee, fatherly romanticizing of a debilitating syndrome is a tad idealistic at times, he is careful to balance these conceits with an occasionally angry and practical voiceover. His parental concerns about his child fitting in and finding her way in a very harsh world quick to diminish and attack difference are very similar to those of any parent, only his situation is far more tangible and legitimately defined.
His blending of realistic frustrations with dreamlike expressionism establishes emotional connection and empathy quite effectively, demonstrating his aptitude for telling a story and engaging an audience. The main flaw, beyond an overly pat resolution that chooses to ignore some less admirable human characteristics, is the love that Latulippe has for his daughter, showing many protracted sequences of her trying to count to ten or jumping on a trampoline.
It's an understandable editing and directorial shortcoming, seeing as he and his wife are extremely capable, loving parents. But his inability to focus on his own stylistic trajectory when considering pacing and audience appreciation for home videos is what hinders Alphée of the Stars from achieving greatness.
Still, it's a very touching story about the nature of fighting against all odds in this world and never letting the cold rigidity of social expectation break your spirit. (NFB)