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La Neuvaine

(The Novena)

Year: 2005
Language: French
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 97 min
Director: Bernard Émond
Producer: Bernadette Payeur
Writer: Bernard Émond
Cinematographer: Jean-Claude Labrecque
Editor: Louise Côté
Sound: Luc Boudrias, Martin Allard, Marcel Chouinard, Hugo Brochu
Music: Robert Lepage
Cast: Patrick Drolet, Denise Gagnon, Isabelle Roy, Élise Guilbault, Stéphane Demers
Production Company: ACPAV

Haunted by feelings of helplessness following the death of her child, Jeanne (Élise Guilbault), a committed and successful Montreal physician, strives to maintain her faith by helping and healing others. But when she witnesses the murder of an abused woman and her infant child – whom Jeanne had been caring for – Jeanne’s already tenuous faith is shattered. Having lost all hope, she sinks into suicidal depression and drives to the town of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, home of a well-known Catholic shrine, where she tries to summon the courage to drown herself in the St. Lawrence River.

But Jeanne is dissuaded by an empathetic young man named François (Patrick Drolet), who has been coming to Saint-Anne from a neighbouring village to perform a novena, a Catholic prayer performed over nine days, in the hope of aiding his dying grandmother. Jeanne is drawn to François’s compassion and simplicity but bristles at his apparently unwavering religious faith, which she knows will be tested as his grandmother’s condition worsens. Their burgeoning relationship urges them to question how they define faith and allow it to guide their actions.

A ruminative, melancholy and moving meditation on questions of faith and one’s belief in God, La Neuvaine is distinguished by director Bernard Émond’s characteristic, probing intelligence, superb performances and acclaimed veteran Jean-Claude Labrecque’s beautiful cinematography, which evocatively captures Quebec’s rich autumnal textures.

La Neuvaine won three major awards at the 2005 Locarno International Film Festival (the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, the Youth Jury Award and the Best Actor Award for Patrick Drolet), as well as a Jutra Award for Guilbault’s lead performance. It was also named one of Canada’s Top Ten of 2005 by an independent, national panel of filmmakers, programmers, journalists and industry professionals, making it the third of Émond’s three fiction features to receive the honour.