(Canada, 81 min.)
Dir. Sarah Baril Gaudet
In Passage, director Sarah Baril Gaudet’s return to her hometown in small-town Québec is seen through the eyes of two teens on the cusp of leaving it, as she did nearly a decade earlier. The film quietly observes Gabrielle and Yoan, friends and freshly minted “adults” at age 18, as they go through the motions of their lives in Témiscamingue. Yoan waits tables, rushing extra syrup to groups of elderly men at a little bistro, while Gabrielle takes care of the till in a lonely gas station, a slushie machine rotating at her shoulder. While the charms and language of Québec are there, the film captures a sense of rural Canada that feels universal.
Gabrielle has her path set out for her, accepted into a special education degree, but never without an animal in her lap or tucked in her arm. She is hesitant to leave town and even more hesitant to stick with her major, as she is now leaning more towards veterinary studies. She muses on how often the path we pursue is just the one that our parents or teachers have praised us towards, without considering if we would enjoy the day-to-day reality of the work ourselves.
Yoan plans to escape to Québec City and find the “Luigi to his Mario.” He is both terrified and thrilled to leave his hometown and further explore his sexuality. He buzzes with an endearing and nervous innocence, filming vlogs leading up to and during his big move in a way reminiscent of Eighth Grade. Right before leaving for the big city, his grandfather cuts his hair one last time in the barber’s chair in his basement. Yoan feels nostalgic pangs, realizing that it’s likely the last of many haircuts, and while he’ll probably get sleeker fades in the city, it won’t be quite the same.
The visuals of the film paint the town in a loving light. Even the inside of a bargain store looks beautiful, and so, of course, does the lushness of a Québec lake in summer. The score, classically coming of age fare, doesn’t significantly enhance nor take away from the essence of the film. Gaudet’s subtle touch in shaping the film helps it feel very close to life.
Passage isn’t showing you anything you haven’t seen before, and perhaps that’s the whole point. It beckons us to look closer at the stories that are so familiar to us, taking kids that could’ve been plucked from any hometown mall’s food court as its stars. We follow along with the lives of very normal teenagers, similar to the teenagers we know and the teenagers we once were (or still are). At its best, the film implores the viewer to revisit their teenage self and sit with them for a while, in all their optimism and uncertainty, and remember who they wanted to be.
Passage premiered at RIDM 2020.