Published Apr 09, 2013Grief, self-awareness and empowerment are just a few broad themes floundering around Sólveig Anspach's mediocre, desperately quirky comedy of sorts, Queen of Montreal. It's the sort of film that doesn't have enough cinematic appeal or unique sensibility—regardless of how desperately it tries—to have much theatrical merit but it would be a nice find on a rainy Sunday afternoon if viewed with absolutely no expectations.
It opens with the recently widowed Agathe (Florence Loiret Caille) carrying around her husband's ashes. A playful, contrary score suggests comedy amidst tragedy, which becomes abundantly clear when she meets the Icelandic mother-son duo, Anna (Didda Jónsdottir) and Ulfúr (Úlfur Ægisson), at an airport and offers them a place to stay when the Icelandic economic crash leaves them stranded in France on a trip home from Jamaica.
Quickly, we establish that Agathe is a bit of a pushover and softy, lending money to her dipshit busker friend and having little vested interest in the life she's allowed her husband to control and dominate. And as time progresses and people start crawling out of the woodwork, she realizes just how much of a user and douchebag her poseur philanthropist husband really was.
As the title suggests, Queen of Montreal is about Agathe's journey towards self-actualization, which, sadly, seems mainly to involve shedding herself of her ex. Very little identity is established beyond her ability to take minor control over her life since most of the narrative is preoccupied with Anna's pot-smoking and Ulfúr's bringing home a sea otter.
The sea otter is used as a metaphor for helping the deceased be reincarnated and freed from the psyche of the living; something as silly and superficial as it sounds. Had the time spent on developing secondary characters—who represent a smug, pseudo-prescient reminder of economic indulgence worldwide—been focused on giving our protagonist a bit more to do than realize she is more than her man, the intended emotional catharsis might have struck a chord.
Unfortunately, there's little to connect with here and little observation about life that hasn't been reiterated ad nauseum in the hundreds of quirky comedies that came before. Still, some of the broad comedy works within the context of the film, making it all accessible, which is at least something. (Diaphana)