I saw the French-Canadian film Dead Leaves at the 2017 FilmQuest Film Festival.

Dead Leaves is three stories taking place at the same time in the Canadian woods five years after an economic collapse. Even though there is this overarching setting for the story the three individual stories make it a little harder to give a rundown of the plot.

At the beginning there is a brief moment that shows the stories are taking place in the same area, and hints that they are intertwined. Then each goes on their separate ways, until the closing scene of the movie. So, this felt like three stories in an anthology where there is a known starting point and ending point.

Each of the three stories in Dead Leaves had a different feel to it. There were three directors listed for the movie and who were also listed as the writers. This makes me feel that each created and directed their own storyline.

This gives the movie a rough start. The storylines are very disparate, heading off in their own directions with hints that they are going to be linking back together. With the definite differences in character and feel to each story it was easy enough to tell when the story shifted from one to another. It was almost too much of a difference to give the acceptance that they were all happening close to each other.

After settling in and giving over to the style, I was able to find that each was looking at a different aspect of how life could turn for individuals in the rural setting. Each story told of an individual dealing with the situation in their way. Because of the choices they made, each was having to deal with their own set of individual circumstances.

As the stories continue to unfold we are given the opportunity to see how through their differences they are each dealing with very much the same theme of man’s inhumanity to man. And, how they are struggling to rise above the situation, but being dragged into the circumstances of the overarching situation.

The movie builds, creating a more solidified story than what we start with. The final scene gives the culmination that as long as there are people like the three protagonists we can have hope for our continuation.

The film is set in the French-Canadian forests and the setting is used to great affect in telling the story. The locations become elements helping build the story and the impact the collapse has had on the people. And, at the same time, you are given how resilient the land has been in how the impact has been limited to humanity.

There are times we see the tropes used in post-apocalyptic settings. It is hard to say if Dead Leaves was paying homage to earlier works from years past or if there was a deeper meaning. When I first saw the scenes I felt a little pushed out of the story, thinking they were just rehashing. But, they were just scenes and not the rehashing of the story. This led me to think about what the movie was saying at the deeper level and how people fall back on what they known in dealing with the unknown. For many of us the known way of dealing with this type of situation are those stories we have read and seen.

The look of the actors was used just as well, if not better than the settings in telling the story. The look gave an authentic feel to what it would be like just a few years after. It wasn’t over-the-top. It looked like people who had dug into their closets, traded, or did with what they could find. It spoke of the hardship of some, and the established luxury of others. Their look even gave hints about what they were willing to do.

The portrayal of the characters never took me out of the movie. I was watching people who were dealing with their life as they now know it. I never felt like anything that was done pulled me back into the present and away from the hardships and decisions they were being faced with.

The strength of having the three storylines is it gives every person seeing this film someone to identify with. Once I did that, and noticed those around me were doing the same, we were drawn in. I could see people leaning forward then back at different times, corresponding to the storyline that had their interest.

It didn’t mean the other stories weren’t as compelling, they just had different hooks. I listened to people talking about the film afterwards and how they related to different characters, and why.

Overall, Dead Leaves has a slower start and a great finish. The use of the setting provides additional character to the story and to the theme. The acting is wonderful and I could feel what the characters were going through. The movie is in French.

I give Dead Leaves 4 out of 5.

Dead Leaves is currently on the film festival circuit.

Dead Leaves was nominated for eight awards at FilmQuest: Best Feature Film; Best Director; Best Actor, Roy Dupuis; Best Supporting Actress, Audrey Rancourt-Lessard; Best Costumes; Best Sound; Best Score; and Best Makeup.

The Director/Writers were listed as Thierry Bouffard, Steve Landry, and Edouard A. Tremblay. With the cast of Roy Dupuis, Noemie O’Farrell, Audrey Rancourt-Lessard, and Philippe Racine. The movie runs for 103 minutes.