KVIFF 2018: 'The Fireflies Are Gone' is Fresh Coming-of-Age Cinema
by Alex Billington
July 6, 2018
Every year we get a big batch of new coming-of-age films, but only a few of them really stand out. This is one of the very best of the coming-of-age films from 2018, a lovely dramatic feature Quebec. The Fireflies Are Gone, originally titled La disparition des lucioles in French, is the third feature film made by filmmaker Sébastien Pilote, and it's wonderful. It doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything, but it is a very fresh, funny, heartwarming take on today's youth growing up without a desire to conform to their parents' desires for a perfect career-focused life. This is one of those particularly outstanding indie films that is so enjoyable and exciting that it put a spring in my step. The moment it finishes up, I was grinning ear-to-ear and suddenly happy about the world and just wanted to get out and dance. I really love when films have this kind of effect.
From the first few frames of The Fireflies Are Gone, I knew this film would be something special. The story follows a young early-twenties woman named Léo, played exquisitely by the wonderfully talented Karelle Tremblay. She lives in small, sleepy town that is no longer what it was once the big mill shut down. The open scene at a restaurant with her parents sets the tone and establishes the character just perfectly - she doesn't care about a career or life plans or anything in the future, she doesn't even know what she wants to do today. It's a beautiful character study of a young woman who doesn't really know what she wants, she just knows what she doesn't want. She doesn't want that stale life, she doesn't want to be an adult, she wants to enjoy her freedom. And yet she has lessons to learn, and we get to watch her learn those lessons in this film.
It's a bit odd to say that I connect deeply with this film, because it's about a character that is entirely unlike me – or I should say, no longer me. This woman is smart, but she's careless. She has no interest in anything, at this moment in her life, she just wants to not be an adult or start down that path. She hangs out with her other young friends in junky cafes, has no real life, and prefers it that way. But she learns her lessons, in obvious and not-so-obvious ways, and there's something particularly lovely about the way Pilote shows us what she goes through. It's sensitive and sympathetic, which combined with her performance makes the film so delightful to watch. It has rock out moments, but it also has its contemplative moments, where you can see she is figuring out things in her mind and growing, it's all in her eyes and the nuances of her movements.
I could write an entire review of the score for this film it's incredible - one of my favorite scores this entire year. Composer Philippe Brault delivers his first score for a feature-length film and it's phenomenal. It's an unexpected score, very melodic and moody, and yet it's beautiful. It's unexpected because it doesn't seem to fit with the film, which has scenes of rock music and a fuck-you attitude, but every time it comes in I kept feeling a chill. My emotions were so swept up in the melodies, in the lovely sounds, the way it works in so delicately and intimately into the story we're seeing on screen. This is an iconic score for Brault, and I can't wait for him to work on more films and make more music. Until then, this is going to be an album I know I'll be listening to often - to let the music affect my emotions again and remind me of the brilliance of this film.
This wonderful coming-of-age film deserves to go far, and be seen by audiences all over the world. It's a feel-good, uplifting film in the very best of ways, a prime example of truly impressive minimal filmmaking from a serious up-and-coming storyteller. And the way it ends is sublime. It gets to where it needs to get, takes her character where she needs to be, then finishes with the perfect shot. This is the kind of film I go to festivals to discover, and I'm so glad I had a chance to experience this. Now it's time for everyone else to discover it.
Alex's Karlovy Vary 2018 Rating: 9.8 out of 10
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