Derrière moi (Behind Me) Rafaël Ouellet

Last year, I watched Ouellet’s directorial debut, Le Cèdre penché, at TIFF. It was a musical tale of two sisters, their story intimately unravelling as they cope with their mother’s death. Derrière moi is a very different, considerably darker story but Ouellet’s ability to create tone, atmosphere and gorgeous tales about pairs of women is undeniable.

In his sophomore effort, the director pits desperate party girl Betty (Carina Caputo) against (or perhaps with?) lonely 14-year-old Léa (Charlotte Legault) in beautiful small town Quebec. As the two girls’ stories become increasingly intertwined it becomes clear that the mysterious, beautiful and dangerous Betty’s influence may be too much for young Léa to handle. The girls teeter on the brink of self-destruction, struggling with emotions and experiences well beyond their scope of experience.

This isn’t an action packed film, though it might be a bit more plot-oriented than last year’s tunefully meandering Le Cèdre penché. This film’s all about the journey, and being unsure of where it’s taking you is a large part of the charm.

Along with Stéphane Lafleur, Denis Côté and other young Quebecois filmmakers, Rafaël Ouellet is contributing to an intriguing, experimental new voice in Quebecois cinema. His films are small, low-budget affairs that use these limitations so much to their advantage that they become assets.

The cast also helps bring the modest tale to life. Both female leads are pitch perfect, as the awkward and needy teenager and her exotic, unhinged new friend.

This is precisely the sort of film I love to see at TIFF: a small production that reminds me of the spectrum of Canadian films out there. And one that I’ll probably never get the chance to see on the big screen again. (Seville)