L’autre rive takes on the issue of homelessness and Montreal serves as the setting. The story is framed up against the 2020 decimation of a large Montreal encampment, and with shelters filled to the brim, the film titling calls out a government that is not doing enough. As for the rest of us, the Gaëlle Graton award-winning short lets us know that there isn’t much we can do under our own circumstances. But not much isn’t nothing, and upon the unfolding of these inspiring 17 minutes, you’ll realize how far a little can actually go.
From the point of view of the rest of us, you can feel the futility in Geneviève’s (Judith Baribeau) slow labored walk to her job at an emergency shelter. Piling on, the low light of dawn and chilling winds coming off the St Lawrence, evokes a profound loneliness. Obviously, there’s little chance to elevate anyone’s hope.
Herself included, the shelter Geneviève worked as a social worker has closed. Clean up duty and floor supervision must suffice in her new position. So the downtrodden puff on her cigarette seems akin to throwing up the white flag and trudging toward the entrance of another unfulfilling day.
The entrance then appears and the disheveled back alley presents exactly at the corner of hopelessness and despair. Moving inside to the empty shelter, the silence is only broken by the incidental noise of Geneviève’s movement. The dour notes of the Paloma Daris-Bécotte score resounds the prevailing echo. Alongside the low lighting is flipped on, and the pan of Charlie Laigneau’s cinematography comes off like a void that won’t be filled – no matter how many bodies enter.
The downturn is only reinforced when word comes from her supervisor that the cold weather will mean turning people away, and one of those indigents is Camille (Rosalie Fortier). We meet the young women with some playful shouts coming from the shower.
Geneviève intervenes, her friend scurries off from the naked horse play, and Camille reminds us that youth knows how to put the worst of things in the background. Geneviève doesn’t let the misdirection last, though. “What are you still doing here, Camille? I thought you found a place.”
But Geneviève’s concern goes beyond just pushing a broom and enforcing order on the occupants. Baribeau exudes all the disappointed concern of a (surrogate) mother, and all Camille can do is try to deflect with playful rebellion.
Not a chance, Camille’s feeble attempt doesn’t stack up and the fallout reveals just how strong a mother-daughter act the actresses are putting on. Anger gives way to guilt on both sides, but once a little time allows the remorse to fade, the characters are able to soberly connect and communicate like they share the same DNA.
Camille doesn’t try to dodge Geneviève’s disappointment, and the acknowledgement does at least give the mother figure hope that Camille is serious about making changes. The surroundings unfortunately tell us how uphill a battle that is.
Homeless shuffling in at dusk seem more like zombies, the PA directives mirror the lifelessness, and the drab living quarters separated by grey curtains suck out any remaining humanity. Hope, on the other hand, can go a long way to bringing people back, and Graton shows us where Camille’s source lies.
Of course the inspiration doesn’t get passed Geneviève, and while the push probably won’t matter for Camille today or tomorrow, the light is revealed. Camille just has to follow it and L’autre rive makes the horizon not so distant when the rest of us take it upon ourselves to care.