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Full Review: Maelstrom

Not Your Average Fish Tale
by Beck Finley

Guide Rating -  

 

In the tradition of other contemporary Canadian films--think "Naked Lunch" or "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing"--, Denis Villenueve brings us "Maelström". A rich blend of dark drama and sometimes funny, yet always startling images, Maelström is a brilliant morality tale as told by a fish. And not just any fish, but a bloody, chopped up fish whose tale is often interrupted by the deft cleaver of a gothic, monstrous fishmonger. Sound fishy to you?
Well, it's not.

The fish's tale is fascinating. It begins with an abortion, includes an accidental death and lots of deft coincidences, and then somehow magically ends in redemption. The heroine of our tale, Bibiane Champagne is brought to life in a stunning performance by Marie-Josée Croze. Showcasing talent that was sadly hidden in the likes of "Battlefield Earth," Croze gives Bibi a seemingly effortless range of emotions that entangles us even further in this story of loss and recovery.

What's so wonderfully believable about this film is its holistic approach in illustrating Bibi's life. From one scene to the next we're witness to the demise of Bibi's strength. From the abortion to the loss of her business, Bibi is stripped. The daughter of a celebrity, she goes from seemingly having it all to having nothing but guilt. Through this, however, Bibi remains so completely likable that one cannot help but hope she'll find her way out.

Villenueve performs a thrilling balancing act. He artfully blends action with reaction, whimsy with despair, coincidence with motivation, and even French with Norwegian. For most of the narrative, Bibi's unspoken secret lies heavily on the story. Even the perceptive and natural Claire (Stephanie Morgenstern) cannot heal Bibi with her gentle touch. All is desperation. But then a pivotal change in point of view, and a scene involving the edibleness of octopus or the same stranger in two different locations proves that all of life is a delicate balancing act. The guilt carried over the death of one man, brings salvation from another.

 

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