Quebec filmmaker Sonia Bonspille Boileau’s debut, Le Dep, is an intentionally intimate and small-scale affair with worry on its mind and an upset heart that, sadly, strains to get the necessary birr to really resonate with the audience. That’s not to say it’s a lacklustre affair, it’s got more than a few stirring minutes and the lead character, a young Innu woman named Lydia (Eve Ringuette), or “Lyds” to her family and close friends, frequently rises to the rush in a pretty demanding role.
When we first meet Lyds a rather mercurial disposition arises. Her sister — whom strangely we never see — flakes out on her shift at the family run convenience store, so Lyds, the reliable sibling, agrees to work a lengthier shift. Her boss/dad, Serge (Marco Collins), is ever grateful, and the exposition heavy dialogue — a weakness in the film — reveals that he’s a recovering alcoholic and that Lyds is the prodigal daughter type, recently returned from the big city.
Le Dep essential functions as a talky chamber piece. The hemmed-in setting, and the arrant winter landscape of the Northern Quebec First Nations community offer up a fair bit of potential, as well as a certain degree of claustrophobia not just for the viewer, but also for the disparate characters we soon meet.
But this single location, we’re pretty much only at the convenience store for the entire film, kneecaps the filmmakers, obviously working on a shoestring, and many sequences struggle for lack of visual flare, recalling at times the lo-fi and flat discernable sweep of Clerks.
And like Clerks, the film introduces a few glib characters — including P A (Chalres Buckell-Robertson), a troubled young man from Lyds past, and Régis (Robert-Pierre Côté), the pathetic town lush — who offer dull rejoinders and gratuitous f-bombs which, at worst, makes the script feel like it’s still being workshopped, and at best, give Lyds occasion to act them both under the table.
Bonspille Boileau deserves accolades for providing some dialogue in the character’s indigenous tongue, Innu, and she makes several brave choices with her script (written with consultation from Benoit Pilon), hanging so much on at risk characters who abuse alcohol, crack, and each other.
Perhaps what’s missing in the film is what’s alluded to but never really shown in the characters: verve and warmth. They vibrate with vulnerability, sure, and ill-temper, but the poverty and alcohol abuse that apparently shaped them aren’t evidenced convincingly, apart from a poorly staged flashback and a clumsy standoff at the film’s climax.
It’s a pity as Bonspille Boileau shows promise as a storyteller with intriguing and entertaining ideas furrowing her brow. Her debut is structurally quite sound and it may well be that it’s the low production values that drain much of the suspense as it unravels in a patchy third act. The backstory is poignant, the minimalist score moody and effective and Ringuette evidences noticeable drawing power.
Taste of Cinema Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)