Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Quebecois Director Denys Arcand, renowned for winning Canada’s only Oscar-winning Best International Film with The Barbarian Invasion, delivers a scathing Satire with his sharp latest effort, TESTAMENT.
Tackling Quebec politics alongside political correctness, activism and media manipulation, this is Arcand’s most accomplished film in decades and, as a lifelong-fan of the Director’s body of work, I could not help channeling “Hello Dolly” and kept singing to myself, “It’s so nice to have you back where you belong.”.
Winner of multiple prestigious Canadian film accolades, Remy Girard plays Jean-Michel, a 73-year-old bachelor living in a retirement home in Montreal, who is somewhat preoccupied with the idea that he will not be on this earth much longer, especially during his long walks in a cemetary. This ex-Author also keeps busy by working twice a week as an Archivist. Then one day a group of protesters gather outside his seniors’ residence to denounce daily what they see as a racist painting in the building. It’s a portrait of Jacques Cartier meeting a group of semi-nude Indigenous people. The retirement home’s Director Suzanne (Sophie Lorain) is commanded by Quebec’s Health and Social Services Minister to find a solution and end the confrontation before it becomes a media maelstrom.
There is a lot to admire about TESTAMENT, but there are also a few thorns strewn about which hinder it from being a perfect rose. I’m sure all the ex-pat Montrealers will giggle when they see that the name of the seniors’ residence is Parizeau-Duplessis (two of Quebec’s most controversial Premiers) and a painting company is named Drapeau-Pare (beloved Montreal Mayor who propelled the city to global recognition when he brought Expo ’67 and the Summer Olympics to Montreal and his successor). I enjoyed how the Quebec media are portrayed with a venom so striking it makes Fox News come across as benign. I particularly enjoyed the budding romance between Jean-Michel and Suzanne as they slowly opened-up to each other. Whereas I appreciated the comedic implications that the activists outside protesting the artwork inside the residence and not one of them were Indigenous, much of the Comedy was schtick and borderline juvenile and predictable.
That said, humour is subjective and I was thrilled to watch TESTAMENT. Denys Arcand is back at the top of his game.
TVA Films release TESTAMENT November 10, 2023 in theatres across Canada.