Sophie Lavoie (2009)

Genres - Drama  |   Run Time - 8 min.  |   Countries - Canada  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Nathan Southern

Two years before her feature breakthrough with Nuit #1, Canadian director Anne Émond made this equally daring 8-minute short that constitutes an exercise in minimalist drama. Nuit star Catherine de Lean plays the title role, a young woman answering a series of questions in preparation for an STD/HIV exam. Émond uses a fixed camera with no shot changes; only de Lean appears onscreen, seated opposite us - as if we are one of the interrogators. It's an incredibly simple setup, but one that opens a key door for the audience - forcing us to double our attention to the minute, dizzyingly complex interplay of emotions on de Lean's face, as Sophie must undergo probing and prodding into highly intimate areas of her life. The depth of her reactions gives the film its heart and soul, and drives home the vulnerability experienced by a contemporary young woman who has given herself over to a more sexually open lifestyle with multiple partners. In many ways, the character of Sophie is so indistinguishable from the role that de Lean plays in Nuit (Clara) that this short could well be termed a "prequel" without exaggeration. Particularly interesting about this film is the fact that Émond uses an off-camera male interviewer to interrogate Sophie - implicitly suggesting that Lavoie's experiences are the sad by-product of a patriarchal, chauvinistic society; in retrospect, we wonder if Sophie would be as sensitive to these particular inquiries if a woman were doing the questioning. This is a demanding and difficult court-metrage that asks much of the audience, but it will yield tremendous rewards for viewers willing to invest the necessary time and attention into it. Stylistically, the film recalls the behavioral documentaries and fiction of Danish director Anne Regitze Wivel, particularly her three-minute short Tobacco from the 1996 omnibus film Danish Girls Show Everything.