Published Feb 01, 2004The Champlain Service Station exists in a world where pedestrian regulars gather to chat about local gossip, where credit is given even to dubious characters and where thievery is punished with time in a freezer. If it sounds a little like Cheers, that's only because the sense of community in Gaz Bar Blues is just as captivating.
Mr. Brochu is known to all as "Boss," and is quite literally that for his three sons, who help him run the little gas station in the poor part of town. The year is 1989, and his eldest sons, Réjean and Guy, detest working at the station. Réjean longs to be a travel photographer, to immortalise societal changes on film; Guy is immersed in the world of jazz. The only one who wants more responsibility at Champlain is 14-year-old Alain.
Brochu struggles to keep his small business afloat while self-serve stations, pestering head office minions, thefts and hold-ups circle like sharks around him. Réjean leaves to photograph the fall of the Berlin wall, and Guy becomes more and more unreliable as he sinks into the jazz scene. Add to all of this Brochu's ongoing battle with Parkinson's.
Despite what it may sound like, Gaz Bar Blues is not hopelessly depressing. It is actually an endearing and enlightening portrait of a struggling small business, set in 1980s Quebec. It starts off slow and runs long, but the story is engaging and the characters are whimsical.
Brochu, played with a quiet depth by Serge Theriault (La Petite Vie, Ding et Dong), displays infinite patience and forgiveness for his customers, friends and sons. Sébastien Delorme (Watatatow) and Danny Gilmore (Rue L'Espérance, Les Fils de Marie) as Réjean and Guy, respectively, bring heart and sincerity to their roles. Maxime Dumontier, as Alain, is earnest, and Gilles Renaud, as Gaston Savard (Boss's friend), is an intuitive confidant.
Peppered with humour that is savvy, not insipid, and segued seamlessly by jazz and rock tunes, Gaz Bar Blues is a subtle, thoughtful piece that is not to be missed. (Alliance Atlantis)