Wednesday, 21 September 2011

En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds (DVD Review)

DVD review of the quirky brother/sister road trip drama En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds directed by Stéphane Lafleur starring Francis La Haye & Fanny Mallette

Image Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Stéphane Lafleur (Continental, un film sans fusil)
Cast: Francis La Haye, Fanny Mallette, Michel Daigle, Sylvain Marcel, Suzanne Lemoine, Denis Houle
Canada, 2011

Reason to see: I loved Stéphane Lafleur's first film Continental, un film sans fusil (one of my faves of 2007)

I often like to start a film review by sharing the general premise or starting point of a film, but with En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds saying that it's about a family who is rather unconnected, especially the brother living with their Dad and a sister in an unhappy but not dismal marriage, doesn't really do the film justice. On that alone, it feels like a straight-up family drama, which again does not do it justice. It's all about the tone with En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds, and a beautiful acceptance factor paralleled by a quirky sentiment that runs strong here just as it did with Stéphane Lafleur's first feature film Continental, un film sans fusil. This tone of the bizarre being taken on face value, is one of the many things that I love about the film.

It's also this tone that makes the film get away with things that no family drama feels like it should, like moments of magical realism or possibly even science fiction that just are ... there. It might feel absurd from the outside looking it, but it's treated with total realism, and it just feels right. I loved watching the stories and characters lives unfold and come together Benoit (Francis La Haye) who doesn't have much success or experience in life to his sister Maryse (Fanny Mallette) who falls into a normal rhythm of life for the most part and then there is their father Alain (Sylvain Marcel) who just wants them all to have a family dinner to honour the memory of their mother.

It's not so much about the actual happenings as it is about the moments, especially the moments in the relationships. It's so nice to see a quote-unquote family drama that isn't people at each others throats or screaming or hiding dark secrets to shock the nation but rather to get an entire understanding of a relationship from a single moment, word or look. I loved that. It's subtle and beautiful, and the strength of the actors brings it home time and time again. The film does have a fun road movie element to it although it's literally an icy one which gives an unexpected parallel to needing to be able to go with the flow even under the forces of nature. And that's the best way to approach En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds, to go with the flow of it and enjoy the ride. I know I did.

DVD Extras (in French):
  • L'homme du futue / Man of the Future (9 selections, 12 minutes) reflections, promos, moments and insights with the character 'The Man of the Future' played by Denis Houle. These are pretty interesting and some quite funny, although I could only understand bits & pieces as they are all in French.
  • Joue moins fort / Don't Play So Loud (3 minutes) outtakes of Francis La Haye playing guitar.
  • Trailer
  • All extras in French
En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds is available on DVD as of September 20, 2011. Check it out over at

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I already look forward to watching it again
I highly recommend

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Francis La Haye as Benoit in FAMILIAR GROUNDS Courtesy of eOne Films

Fanny Mallette in FAMILIAR GROUNDS. Courtesy of eOne Films.

1 comment:

Jandy Stone said...

I saw this at the LA Film Festival, and I didn't really know how to feel about it immediately (partially because I was tired enough at the point in the festival that the movie felt reaaaaally slow at points), but looking back on it, I think it's one of my favorites of that fest. The really dry humor was fantastic, and once my sleep-starved brain figured out the ending, it was pretty brilliant. I'd love to revisit it now.

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