By Mr. Will Wong
On paper it all seems ridiculous. A fictionalization of the life of iconic Céline Dion, made without her involvement. But then again, Dion‘s life has been anything but ordinary, so a Film that swings big, is fitting! ALINE is co-written, directed by and starring double César winner Valérie Lemercier, and like the subject whom the story is based upon, it overcomes expectations to what is a triumph.
We meet Aline Dieu just as a child growing-up in family of some 50+… if you count grandchildren. Her family knowing she has a special talent, send a cassette to famous manager Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel) in an effort to capture his attention. And it works. He is enchanted by her talent, taking the lead on her career which soon has her performing on an international stage. Despite the disapproval of Aline‘s mother Sylvette (Danielle Fichaud), the rising star and her manager who is many years her senior and married, forge a romance. From there we witness Aline fully realizing her dream as she conquers the world. It isn’t by any stretch a fairytale ending, as we see Aline in her struggles with fertility, losing her voice, balancing motherhood and a career as a megastar, and of course coping with her husband’s declining health.
The Film certainly benefits from featuring songs from Dion‘s actual catalog. And Lemercier nails her choreography and mannerisms with an exactness even if she’s only lip-syncing. But her commitment doesn’t end there. Whether Aline is doing a talk show appearance or speaking candidly to her fans, Lemercier manages to exude that relatable charm that has made Dion a household name. Even in the finale where we’re not familiar with the song being sung, we get a sense of heaviness and the storms Aline has weathered in her journey. While the vocals we hear in the Film aren’t those of Dion, singer Victoria Sio does a tremendous job replicating nuances in the way she sings that had us wanting to Shazam just to make sure our ears weren’t fooling us.
What we did want was a little more breathing room in some of the Film’s more emotional moments, versus quick cuts to the next scenes in order to tell some 40+ years of Aline‘s life succinctly in under two hours. We gladly would’ve made the time to sit through a slightly longer running time to let the emotions sink in even more. Believe me, there are several moments that tugged on our heart strings. In less capable hands, a love story like this could easily have been misconstrued, but it is told in way that feels natural and when scrutinized on-screen, the right questions are asked. A relationship like this would be seen even more so through a different lens today and it is right to ask what Aline wanted.
ALINE is nothing short of mesmerizing. While it is impossible to capture all the details precisely without Dion‘s involvement, Lemercier does an stellar job capturing Dion‘s essence and focuses her storytelling on what the Charlemagne-born chanteuse would want to be remembered by – how the love of her life came to define her and what it meant to her. Lemercier balances and multi-tasks all assignments with equal dexterity. She is a fantastic storyteller and whether she is portraying Aline in her naive youth (made possible with a bit of CGI), or playing her in the Film’s most tender moments between her and Guy-Claude where they do their secret handshake before she goes on stage, we get an authenticity that feels warm. Whether or not Dion ever actually sees this Film, she should know that Lemercier did her legacy proud. As a huge Céline fan, this was an extremely satisfying watch.
levelFILM release ALINE as follows:
Jan 28, 2022 – Rainbow Regina
Jan 28, 2022 – Roxy 2 Saskatoon
Jan 28, 2022- The Vic Victoria
Jan 28, 2022- Carnival Theatre Red Deer
Feb 4, 2022 – Westdale Hamilton
Feb 11-17, 2022 – Royal Theatre Kapuskasing
February 11, 2022- The Bytowne Ottawa
February 18, 2022 – The Fox Toronto