Gamma Rays


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Gamma Rays
"Loosely structured, although maintaining an impressive balance between its stories." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

The multifaceted and multicultural fabric of Montreal is brought to life in this teenage ensemble drama from Henry Bernadet, which spends a sultry summer in the company of a group of youngsters. Like 2019 British teen favourite Rocks, the film emerged out of workshops with the cast. Although the result is fictional it feels firmly moored in their reality, a sensation heightened by frequent cutaway shots to the comings and goings of the city.

Loosely structured, although maintaining an impressive balance between its stories, we dip in and out of the lives of a trio of teenagers. Afro-Canadian Toussaint (Chris Kanyembuga) provides a sort of bridging device for Bernadet’s narrative (co-written with Nicolas Krief and Isabelle Brouillette). He’s a lonely soul but a big thinker and, after he finds an unexpected note in a bottle, embarks on a phone relationship with a mystery woman at the other side of the city. Their meditative conversations allow Bernadet to offer lyrical, more contemplative moments away from his other two story strands.

Toussaint’s flowing imaginings are in sharp contrast to the life lived by the combustible Fatima (Chaimaa Zinedine), who is working a supermarket check-out job in a bid to get back on the straight and narrow after being mixed up with a drug dealer. Zinedine has a fierce presence that works well against her much calmer friend Naïma (Océane Garçon-Gravel) and a magnetism that keeps us onside even when her character’s impetuousness threatens to get the better of her. Rounding out the triptych is the gently humorous tale of Abel (Yassine Jabrane) whose extrovert cousin Omar (Hani Laroum) has just come to stay for the summer and proves to be an increasing thorn in his side.

“People are awful,” someone suggests, but Bernadet suggests quite the opposite. His love of Montreal and its residents sings through the film, from incidental characters, like a man exercising in a park and frequently glimpsed parkour and a remote-control car to the city’s architecture, which Omar has an interest in. Bernadet also has a poetic eye for an image, whether its allowing the sun to flare the camera, using heat imagery or simply letting moments fade over one another. There is room for small drama - a missing person, what to give a girl for her birthday - but the incident mostly plays second fiddle to the characters. When they’re as vibrant as this, it’s a good choice.

Reviewed on: 17 Oct 2023
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Gamma Rays packshot
Summer unfolds in a triptych of stories about teenagers in Montreal.

Director: Henry Bernadet

Writer: Henry Bernadet

Starring: Chaimaa Zinedine, Chris Kanyembuga, Yassine Jabrane, Hani Laroum, Océane Garçon-Gravel

Year: 2023

Country: Canada


SSFF 2023

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