I had no idea what this movie was even about when I went into it, or even whether it was French or French Canadian – though my Canadian friends set me straight on that in a hurry when I mentioned I was about to watch it. It’s set in a French Canadian mining community in the winter. Right off the bat, an altercation between miner Jos Poulin and the English-speaking bosses of the mine set him off to work as a logger over the winter instead. I kind of wished the film focused more on him, but his story is just intercut with the main one, which is about the general store owner Antoine and his family, especially his nephew Benoit, who works at his uncle’s store and through whose eyes we see most of the rest of the film.
It’s largely a down to earth slice of life story about this little town and the people in it, with a dose of coming of age for Benoit. He shyly flirts with the girl who works at the store, joins an older boy to peek at a customer trying on a corset, and then fatefully goes with his uncle to pick up the body of one of the Poulin boys, who live far away from the town (Antoine is also the community’s undertaker). Not a lot of note happens for a long while, really, but once the film settles in on Benoit, it’s quite enjoyable.