Guy Édoin is one of the rising talents in the cinema of Quebec. After studying in Montreal, he became well known for his trilogy of short films (Le Pont, Les Eaux Mortes and La Battue) and he participated in several international film festivals. The film Marécages (Wetlands) is his debut feature film as director and screenwriter. The film was selected for Critics’ Week at the Venice Film Festival in 2011 and was awarded a Special Mention at Vancouver Film Festival the same year.
The story takes place at the Cantons de l’Est, a rural area in southeastern Quebec. The film follows the life of a teenager, Simon (Gabriel Maillé) who lives with his family and they have a dairy farm. The relationship with his father, Jean (Luc Picard) is full of clashes mainly because Simon always avoids the errands that are assigned to him. His mother, Mary (Pascale Bussières) also does not support him and often she reminds him that he was responsible for the drowning of his little brother. Their financial situation is very bad and despite their hard work the incomes are not sufficient and the debts are leading them to bankruptcy. Things get worse when the father is killed in an accident that Simon could be partially responsible. His mother finds another reason to accuse him and their lives will change when suddenly their new tenant (François Papineau) appears.
Édoin knows perfectly how to handle the area where the story takes place. For that reason he returned to his homeland and the film was shot at his parents’ farm. He also manages to use the wet nature of the area in order to give a more harsh and brutal feeling to his rural drama. When it is necessary he avoids the open field of the countryside and transfers all action at home. Family’s dissolution will take place gradually and the isolated environment of their farm would be the perfect setting to build a highly realistic kitchen sink drama. The problems aim almost exclusively on Simon. He feels responsible for their poor economic situation, he is trapped in a house that does not want to stay and he is accused for two deaths that he did not want to provoke. When all these feelings are combined with his delicate age and his attempts to find a sexual identity, then it is very difficult for him to bear and he will search ways to escape.
The director lets his characters to live together but each one of them is experiencing his own individual isolation of silence. Love and hate cannot be “traded” and family cohesion is absent while its members seem more like people that coexist and tolerate each other’s presence simply because there is no other alternative. The misery of poverty forces them to bury all the other theoretically minor problems. Each of their choices seems that could just bring them one step closer to the disaster and while they are repeating the same mistakes the disaster will arrive sooner. Only the river that runs near their field is a place of escape. Despite the small necessary touches of melodrama the story of Marécages seems traumatically real.
The film seems so persuasive and this is largely due to the actors. Luc Picard and Pascale Bussières are two of the most recognizable and talented actors of Quebec of the recent years. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that the film is largely supported by Bussières’ performance. In her character she will incorporate the pain, the grief of the loss, the cruelty of hard work, the hate towards her own child, the need for love and even the feeling of motherhood when she seems more conscious. It is clear that the naturalness is intensified by the choice of the rural environment, but in reality this is a pretense. The idyllic landscape seems incapable to hide the gloom of their lives. The same drama with the same heroes could occur in any other place. The symbolic collapse of the family and the fear of an accidental and unexpected death – destruction are not geographically limited.
The story of Simon had some similarities with Édoin’s and that lead to a conjecture that the screenplay was loosely based on his life. The director declared that this was not an autobiographical movie and all the characters were fictional. With his first work, Édoin delivers a result that many and more experienced colleagues could envy. Even though he is working in a safety and familiar for him area he does not stay stagnant and he is evolving the film. Besides this is one of his philosophies and by using the words of Robert Lapage, he said “One day you have to move from the personal to the universal, and I always did that.”