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Juliane Sellam is the subject of director Sofia Bohdanowicz's documentary Maison du bonheur, which looks at what happens when we grow old enough to realize the truth and consequences of decisions we made years earlier.

Courtesy of TIFF

  • Maison du bonheur
  • Directed by: Sofia Bohdanowicz
  • Classification: N/A; 62 minutes

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For the anglophones in the audience, Maison du bonheur translates to “house of happiness,” which feels almost too on-the-nose. Because not only is Sofia Bohdanowicz’s second documentary a thoroughly lively and joyful production, it also offers bright, shining hope for the future of Canadian cinema.

As with the director’s previous work – a collection of shorts, plus the deservedly acclaimed 2016 docudrama Never Eat AloneMaison du bonheur is a thoughtful, affecting study of the space we choose to take up in this world, and what happens when we grow old enough to realize the truth and consequences of those decisions.

Here, Bohdanowicz travels to Paris to film – or perhaps study is the more appropriate word – the day-to-day life of Montmartre astrologer Juliane Sellam. Bohdanowicz couldn’t have lucked into a better character to profile, as the 77-year-old Parisian is fully open about her life and career and infectiously eager to allow the director into her private space, both literally and figuratively.

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Along the way, Bohdanowicz becomes as much a subject as Sellam, leading to a film that is as revealing as it is honest and sincere. By the time Sellam reads Bohdanowicz’s own astrological chart, it becomes hard to resist cliché: the stars, for both Bohdanowicz and the audience, have aligned perfectly.

Maison du bonheur opens Aug. 17 in Toronto