Vic + Flo Saw a Bear


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Pierrette Robitaille and Romane Bohringer in Vic + Flo Saw A Bear
"Côté has always had a skill for subverting expectations and here he manages to slide his film from black comedy to outright horror with the smoothness of a snake."

Denis Côté's 2012 documentary Bestiare was, in part, an exploration of the ideas of captivity and freedom - notions to which he returns in his latest fictional work. His lead character Victoria (Pierrette Robitaille) and her girlfriend Florence (Romane Bohringer) may no longer be confined within the walls of a prison but through the course of the runtime we'll learn that ensnarement can come in many forms - some of them much less benevolent than others.

Côté makes this point forcefully in the first few minutes of the film as the pensive and careworn Vic seeks retreat in the wooded hinterlands of Quebec, arriving on the doorstep of her Uncle Émile's (Georges Molnar) home to find him so confined by the failures of his own body that he is unable to move or speak. Vic takes solace in the quiet but the younger Flo is less convinced, finding herself somehow stuck in the orbit of Vic, even as she craves the wider world that the older woman is sick of.

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The arrival of a third woman - Jackie (Marie Brassard) - into their sphere brings with it threat and that most inescapable of movie dangers, the past.

Côté has always had a skill for subverting expectations and here he manages to slide his film from black comedy to outright horror with the smoothness of a snake. This is much more than a straightforward genre twist, however, as his film plays out less like an excercise in clever trickery than a fable that, despite its newness, feels familiar. This is not just about the restrictions of relationships but about the freedoms they can offer, too, with his portrayal of the sapphic romance between Vic and Flo every bit as good as that in the much-vaunted Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Bears, meanwhile, as with all the best fairytales, are lurking everywhere, from the unseen threats that Vic suspects wait for her back in civilisation to her inquisitive parole officer (Marc-André Grondin) and the sinisterly upbeat Jackie.

Although usually avoiding scoring, Côté puts a bold tympanic design by film newcomer Melissa Lavergne to excellent use - employing it to herald his mood changes and prepare us for dark moments to come. Robitaille also ought to be much better known for her work here, as she mixes a brittle exterior with raw vulnerability in one of 2013's standout performances from older actresses that fully deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Gloria's Paulina García and Child's Pose's Luminita Gheorghiu.

Vic + Flo avoids easy classification and its disturbing move into brutal violence is deliberately shocking - and may prove too much for audiences lulled by the gentler moments earlier in the film. But no matter how twisted one of Côté's stories becomes, his characters always cut deep.

Reviewed on: 05 Feb 2014
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Vic + Flo Saw a Bear packshot
A couple, one of whom is just out of prison, hide away in a house in the woods until the past comes calling for them.

Director: Denis Côté

Writer: Denis Côté

Starring: Pierrette Robitaille, Romane Bohringer, Marie Brassard, Marc-André Grondin, Georges Molnar

Year: 2013

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Canada

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