Les nôtres movie review: sacrificing girls for the greater good

part of my Directed by Women series
MaryAnn’s quick take: Quietly chilling. A condemnation of supposed propriety over genuine decency, and the sacrifice of children to the illusion of communal cohesion. There are no easy answers here, and no pat resolutions.
I’m “biast” (pro): desperate for movies by women about girls
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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High-school sophomore Magalie (Emilie Bierre), 13 years old, is pregnant. She’s kept it a secret for so long that she’s in her second trimester before anyone else finds out. But now her mom (Marianne Farley) knows. And then mom tells her neighbor friend, and soon enough, their entire Québécois small town is set alight with whispered gossip and not-so-subtle speculation about Magalie’s predicament, and who might be responsible for it. Because Magalie won’t say who the father of her baby is.

It’s no spoiler to reveal that he is a much older man (Paul Doucet: Wicker Park), a neighbor and a prominent, trusted figure in the community… because from the opening moments of the quietly chilling Les nôtres, we see exactly what is going on. We know more than Magalie does, in fact: we see how she is being groomed by this monstrous man, and not just to keep her mouth shut about his responsibility.

Writer (with Judith Baribeau) and director Jeanne Leblanc has crafted a movie precise in its cold matter-of-factnesses: in the calculation of Magalie’s rapist, in the reflexive bigotry of Magalie’s community as they try, poorly, to parse what is happening to one of their own without having the courage to confront it head on. (The film’s title transliterates as Our Own.) They have to actually want to see what is happening, for starters.

Les nôtres
Bored moms at kids’ sports things? The gossip will flow…

This is not a movie about adolescent experience, even if Magalie is at its center. It’s about the perceptions and presumptions of adults who seem unable to connect with children unless it’s for twisted, criminal, abusive purposes (with, perhaps, one exception, though this is subject to some mighty pushback). It is a condemnation of supposed propriety over genuine decency, and the sacrifice of children to a larger communal cohesion. Or to the illusion of such. It is not a pleasant film. But it is a necessary one.

There are no easy answers here, no pat resolutions… no resolutions at all, in fact. What is left lingering is the festering pain that Magalie will be grappling with for a long time. What is left lingering is the implication that what we have witnessed is just one iteration of a terrible cycle that has been secretly rolling on and on, and will roll on and on into the future.

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