Published Jul 28, 2011In title, Familiar Ground refers to the quotidian, the sense of comfort or numbness found in repeating the same tasks with the same people day in and day out. To reinforce this notion, Quebecois director Stéphane Lafleur's sophomore feature film plays out at glacial speed, dwelling on the minor moments of life with a static, yet somewhat acerbic and humorous, eye.
Using intertitle cards labelled "Accident #1," "Accident #2" and so on, this slightly satirical story of siblings Benoit (Francis La Haye) and Maryse (Fanny Mallette) divides and propels the monotony of day-to-day life by promising the unexpected in accident form. With a partial Bubble feel, the first accident happens at the factory where Maryse works, leaving her to ponder the nature of losing an arm, later measuring coolers to see if a severed arm would fit and occasionally fetishizing mannequin limb replacement.
Shortly after, a man from the future arrives, advising Benoit that his sister will die in a traffic accident during a blizzard, which adds an unspoken supernatural parable element to a narrative that's otherwise entirely indifferent to genre tactics.
Because the film plays out in a series of extended tableaux, not entirely dissimilar to the work of Roy Andersson ― only far less absurdist ― this astute, coy French-Canadian hidden gem might be dismissed as boring by those not paying attention. But in looking closer at scenes of Benoit playing bass in his bedroom, or eating a spaghetti dinner inadvertently filled with glass, there's an unnerving and amusing sense of peculiarity in the supposed normalcy.
It's a testament to pacing, tone and vision that Lafleur manages to capture the insanity of passive living without unnecessary stylization or a forcing of agenda. Even though we see possible accidents on the periphery of every scene and situation, the meek and diffident characters within are far too complacent to anticipate anything other than their status quo.
And if you really think about it, you'll see that it's not just the characters in this film that fall victim to this. (eOne)