Dark drama, black comedy meet in a suicidal mind
BILL BROWNSTEIN, The Gazette
No beating about the bush for director Jean-Marc PichÃ© – his film Nothing Really Matters opens with these sobering words: “My name is Leo. I’m 35, and I want to die. I always thought suicide was pretty cool.”
Okay, and what’s your first clue this is not a date flick? But hard as it may be to fathom, Nothing Really Matters – making its world premiere tomorrow at the Montreal World Film Festival – has its moments of loony comedy, albeit black as they come. Mostly, however, this is one dark, dark, provocative drama about the plight of a man who has been holed up in his apartment for the last two years.
Leo (played by the electrifying Yannick Bisson) has also been holed up in his bathtub for the last 14 hours and 29 minutes, a razor blade by his side, ready to end it all. Fortunately, Leo is more a yakker than a hacker, and we are spared the sight of bathwater turning blood red.
Leo is an agoraphobe, terrified of moving about in the world outside his home. Luckily, Leo can work at home, where he designs websites for companies.
Even more luckily, he has managed to hook up with a dynamite woman, Carly (the ever-enchanting Pascale BussiÃ¨res), who puts up with his phobias. Or did. And hence this seemingly endless soak in the tub.
Having established his central character’s delicate mindset, PichÃ©, who co-wrote the film with his wife, Catlin Stothers, goes back a spell to give some insight into Leo’s state. Along the way, viewers are introduced to a cavalcade of folk: Leo’s wannabe-gangster landlord (Kenneth Welsh); his best buddy, a wannabe acting star (Spike Adamson); and a burglar (Gord Downie of Tragically Hip fame, who turns out to be quite the acting find) unfortunate enough to bust into Leo’s apartment.
The crook inadvertently triggers high hilarity. After being overtaken, then bound in telephone cable by Leo, the woebegone burglar must listen to the unwell Leo lecture him with much psychobabble about criminality. This levity, while short-lived, is much appreciated, particularly as Leo becomes more and more unglued.
Given the disturbing nature of the flick, one might jump to the conclusion that PichÃ© was raised in some dungeon and force-fed a stark diet of Ingmar Bergman descents into Hades. Hardly. PichÃ©, who has been living in Toronto for the last 12 years, is in fact an acclaimed director of TV commercials.
Then again, perhaps it’s not a surprise that a man who won a gold medal at an advertising-film festival for his fluffy pie-crust commercials would make the leap to a feature film no one will ever call fluffy. There is likely much pent-up emotion involved in shooting spots for the likes of Chrysler, Molson and Campbell Soup – especially in the case of the latter, for which PichÃ© had to deal with the ever-delightful Don Cherry.
But PichÃ© credits his commercial work for providing him the discipline require to make a feature film. “There is much to be said about having to be able to tell a story in just 30 seconds – one which people will be happy to see at least 200 times.”