Gritty Love Street Wars

Sensitive people beware, the film does not spare you anything from Alex’s gloomy daily life. His days are scheduled around finding drugs. In his quest for dope, he meets lots of lost souls like him, but remains definitely alone. His addiction is the only constant in his life. Without money, the only pleasure he can afford is sex.

This Friday, Love in Time of Civil War , a powerful, raw drama and fifth movie of director Rodrigue Jean will be released in Quebec. Over the course of two hours, viewers follow the crazy life of Alex Landry, a young heroin addict from the South Shore of Montreal, who despite all these issues, tries to laugh and enjoy himself.

Shaping his aesthetic with closeup shots of the actors’ bodies, Jean follows Landry as he walks down the streets or puts on his big black leisure coat.

During sex scenes the camera stays fixated on him and the texture of his skin becomes almost palpable. When he shoots-up, the viewer senses the dizziness altogether. The staging is pure and naturalistic.

Discovered in the movie Gabrielle by Louise Archambault, Landry was chosen by the director for his athletic qualities—visible in both his body and his heart.

Both professional and nonprofessional actors were assembled for this movie. Some of the non-professionals were former heroin addicts. It’s not the first time that Jean builds a story around people in the street. In the documentary Men for Sale released in 2009, the filmmaker followed the life of 11 male prostitutes year-round, and created a musical adventure of two unemployed characters for his first movie Full Blast (1999).

Later in his career, in 2002, Jean directed Yellowknife and Lost Song in 2008 for which he won the prize of Best Canadian Picture at the Toronto Film Festival.

For once, it feels good to see people like Landry and his entourage prevail on the big screen. By telling the story of the addict, the prostitute or the beggar, Jean gives a voice to a different kind of hero: one that is unloved and simply ignored in the streets of the city.

Forcing the viewer to confront some of the most difficult realities of drug addiction, the narrative does not fall into the clichés of redemption and happy Hollywood ending. Nonetheless, after spending two hours in the life of the characters, one cannot help but be subjugated by the raw beauty of this intense life.

Love in the Time of Civil War (L’amour au temps de la guerre civile) // Feb. 6 // Cinema Excentris (3536 Saint Laurent Blvd.)

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