In his first film, West of Pluto (2009), co-produced with Myriam Verreault, Henry Bernardet offered a fair and deeply moving portrait of the dreams, wounds, fears and urges of adolescence through the daily lives of 10 young people from a high school a suburb of Quebec.
Fifteen years later, the filmmaker does it again with gamma raysa rich and complex fresco depicting the reality of teenagers in the Saint-Michel district of Montreal, which weighs, through its documentary approach inherited from direct cinema, the courage, solidarity and pitfalls that sprinkle the search for the identity of those who, in spite of themselves, are parachutes between two cultures – and who must learn, even more than the majority, to exist outside the eyes of others.
There we meet Abdel, a lonely teenager who receives a visit from his extroverted cousin, Omar, who has come from Morocco for the holidays. Between parties and tourist attractions, Abdel will be quickly exhausted, both by energy and by Omar’s ill-timed monologue, to the point of dumping him in a subway station. Then there’s Fátima, a supermarket cashier whose relationship with her best friend is threatened by bad company. Finally, there is Toussaint, an introverted young man passionate about fishing. When he finds a bottle washed in the bank containing a phone number, he begins a conversation with a woman that will change his view of the world and others.
Through the ups and downs of everyday life, discussions around a picnic, evenings in the park and ironic jokes, we hear reflections on the obstacles facing these young people. Therefore, the film tackles issues of immigration, systemic racism, ordinary violence, economic precariousness and isolation, without ever falling into caricature and pathos. Simply going to meet the main stakeholders, showing them in their element and in their reality.
The setting, elegant and sober, does not aim to dramatize or beautify, which does not prevent it from being imbued with a touch of poetry and naive beauty, like its subjects. This search for the truth, which has the merit of breaking down many barriers and prejudices, would not have been possible without the frankness and spontaneity of the young amateur actors, who appropriated the lines and who superimposed their experiences on that of theirs character
gamma rays it also aims to be a tribute to Montreal, the city, which we often pass by without seeing it, in all its splendor and its decrepitude, its liveliness and its kitsch side, as a reminder that slipping into the skin of others is also a way of looking at the world through their eyes, and of rediscovering it in a different way. A chilling film that makes you want to know what happens next.
To see on video