Published Jan 28, 2010Much like Bernard Emond's recent award-winning Canadian submission for the 2008 Academy Awards, The Necessities of Life, The Donation focuses its attention on the sense of alienation and displacement one has when thrust into an unfamiliar environment and culture.
It's a far less grandiose tale than The Necessities of Life, with a big city doctor relocating to a small Quebec community, rather than relating itself to anything historical or specifically life threatening, which helps the film artistically but limits its chances of commercial success, for provincial reasons.
Set in Normetal, a town whose heyday passed decades ago with the closing of their primary employer, a mine, La Donation follows a Montreal ER doctor named Jeanne (Elise Guilbalt) as she takes over briefly for the town physician, Dr. Rainville (Jacques Godin). Unsettled by her proximity to her patients, given the inevitability of regular contact in a small community, Jeanne struggles with her new role, faced with a dilemma when Dr. Rainville suffers a heart attack.
The story unfolds in an observational capacity, as the new doctor treats a variety of patients with expectations and idiosyncrasies of their own. While bonding with the baker, she alienates herself from others by refusing to sign worker's compensation claims and attacking locals for their allowance of recreational drug usage. We see this new world through her eyes, unfamiliar with its specific machinations, aside from the overwhelming sense of callousness a tight-knit hamlet can have.
As such, the film is slow moving, with many majestic shots of scenery and environment, with a great deal of the narrative pivoting on Jeanne's quiet reactions to given scenarios. One's interest in deliberately paced character portraits will greatly influence their appreciation for what is essentially an extremely considerate, contemplative tale of new beginnings.
Subtle and sincere, The Donation may find only a limited audience but that audience will surely be pleased. (E1)