Religion, sexuality and the power of family are the powerful themes that make up my favorite Quebecois film of all time C.R.A.Z.Y

Directed by Jean Marc Vallée
Starring Michel Côté and Marc-André Grondin
Released by TVA Films
French with English subtitles
129 min (2005)

I am ashamed to admit that despite living in Montreal for most of my life, I haven’t watched many French Quebec films.   Perhaps being Anglophone I’m instinctively drawn more towards American or English Canadian films, perhaps I’m just too lazy go beyond what Entertainment Weekly tells me I should watch   (just kidding, seriously).   Recently though I’ve started to realize how ridiculous my lack of Quebecois film knowledge is because I’d have to say that on the whole, I’ve enjoyed about 90 percent of the films that La Belle Province has offered me.   And while I have enormous respect for films like Les Invasions Barbares   and Mon Oncle Antoine, to date nothing has topped Jean Marc Vallee’s touching look at twenty years of an ordinary Quebec family’s life in C.R.A.Z.Y.

C.R.A.Z.Y is the story of the Beaulieu family, and focuses mainly on the strained relationship that develops between the second youngest son Zac (Marc André Grondin) and the patriarch of the family Gervais (Michel Côté). Gervais is the kind of person that considers fathering five boys proof that he’s a “man’s man”.   With his older sons fitting into categories of the rebel, the brain and the jock, Gervais starts to grow anxious when he sees young Zac start to develop into the sensitive and spiritual one. Gervais, played with great depth by Michel Cote, is not a bad man but rather one who in an era of heavy Catholic influence in Quebec life (as seen by the fact that there’s a cross or picture of Jesus in almost every scene) refuses to see the possibility that being gay is an acceptable lifestyle. But the older Zac gets the more obvious it becomes who he’s meant to be, and the father and son grow further and further apart.

By the time Zac is a teenager the audience sees he’s learned to deal with his situation in various ways.   He starts a sexual relationship with his best friend Michelle, even though he secretly yearns for his cousin’s boyfriend. Zac also escapes into a vivid fantasy life; some of the best moments of the film are Zac’s fantasy sequences, be it floating in church or imagining what life would be like with his cousin’s boyfriend.   All these sequences as well as other key moments of the film are enhanced by one of the best classic rock movie soundtracks of all time; Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and of course Patsy Cline all help shape the world of C.R.A.Z.Y.

Marc Andre Grondin is good as the confused Zac, but I think he still needs time before he’s great. The other notable performance in this film is Danielle Proulx who as Laurianne Beaulieu gives an extremely subtle and heartwarming performance as the mother we all wish we had. While she is deeply religious herself, Laurianne never judges Zac for being himself and in her own quiet way helps father and son find their way back to each other.

Shameful that it wasn’t nominated for best foreign film Oscar in 2005 C.R.A.Z.Y still went on to win 13 Genies and 14 Jutras that year. This is an excellent film if you’re looking to expand your knowledge not only of Quebec but Canadian film (and we should ALL be trying to expand our knowledge of Canadian films!).   Hope you all have a great weekend, I’ll be at the theater catching Michel Cote’s new film, Pere en Flic.

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