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Director Sébastien Pilote’s ongoing study of Quebec lives running out of options continues apace with The Fireflies Are Gone (2018).

Courtesy of TIFF

  • The Fireflies Are Gone
  • Written and directed by Sébastien Pilote
  • Starring Karelle Tremblay and Pierre-Luc Brillant
  • Classification PG; 96 minutes

rating

The word “meh” comes up more than a few times in La disparition des lucioles (The Fireflies Are Gone), the first film from Quebec’s Sébastien Pilote in five years. Mostly, “meh” – well, “bof,” en français – escapes from the lips of Steven (Pierre-Luc Brillant), a fortysomething guitar teacher who lives in his mother’s Chicoutimi, Que., basement. His exasperated despair is understandable, as is that of his decades younger student/love interest Leo (Karelle Tremblay). Both characters are stuck in their industrial town with few paths of escape and both seem to revel in their mutual despair. But while “meh” might accurately describe Steven and Leo’s plight, there is anything but “bof” about Pilote’s work.

The director’s previous films, most notably 2011′s The Salesman, are fuelled by a sensitive curiosity for the lives of the unremarkable – those confined by circumstances both within and beyond their control. The Fireflies are Gone is no exception, possessing an enormous amount of empathy, but never so blind to ignore the fact that Leo and Steven can be their own worst enemies. Best of all, Pilote affords his actors the space and time to grow into their characters, culminating in a story so lived in and familiar (in a good way) that it approaches docudrama.

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The film, which is enjoying a rare release in Toronto after capturing the Best Canadian Film Award at TIFF this past fall, will not convince English Canada that Québécois cinema is some undiscovered Holy Grail. But Pilote’s work will strike a chord with anyone interested in the mechanics of the human condition.

The Fireflies Are Gone opens July 5 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto (tiff.net).

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