22 February 2009 | robert-temple-1
Tense thriller based round a teenage boy with amnesia
This is an excellent French-Canadian thriller which few people have seen, but which deserves a DVD release and a lot more attention. It is based upon a teenage boy played brilliantly by Mathew Mackay, who as a result of a murder attempt is left with total amnesia, and he slowly attempts to piece together who he is, while his psychiatric interviews are spied upon by a sinister security official who is worried that he might remember too much. One flashback scene is when the boy, then aged 3, is driven away in a middle of the night escape and from the rear window of the car watches his home go up in flames, purposely set alight as part of a total disappearance act by his parents and their minders. The novel upon which this film is based was 'I Am the Cheese' (apparently also filmed nine years earlier in an inferior version) by Robert Cormier, who watched his own home go up in flames when he was eight. The film is excellently directed by Patrick Dewolf, of whom not enough is heard these days. John Hurt and Marthe Keller are excellent as the parents of the boy, Marion Peterson is very good as the compromised psychiatrist, and the boy's girlfriend is played with charm and poignancy by Kathleen Robertson. No one lets the side down, and it all comes together very well, with much better than usual film music as well by Alexandre Desplat. One gets the impression there is a lot of French Canadian talent sitting around up north there somewhere, not getting enough work. There are sections of the film where the characters talk rapidly to each other in French for a few moments, but it is not necessary to catch all that they are saying, as the film is moving fast, and one gets the idea. Marthe Keller's excellent French is explained by saying she grew up in Switzerland, but John Hurt avoids the patois, very wisely. This film has an underlying message, which is: 'Who are we if we cannot remember who we are?' This film is well worth seeing for those fortunate few who can find the old video issued in 1994 by VCI. So many good films like this get lost and buried because they are from marginal production or distribution sources, and Canadians always get ignored anyway, which is another problem. This film is definitely worth making an effort to try to find, especially as I cannot imagine it ever getting onto television because it is 'not in the loop'. This is a collector's delight.