(Ce qu’on a)
Written and Directed by Maxime Lesmers
Released September 18, 2014
Review by Stephen O. Murray
February 13, 2017.
French-born Canadian actor Maxime Lesmers wrote, directed, and starred in What We Have/ Ce qu’on a, a bilingual (French and English) small-budget but good-looking film to disturb most any viewer for one aspect or another.
The film’s protagonist is an actor who has left Paris and secures a job in a theater that mounts plays in French in North Bay, Ontario (a city of fifty-some thousand that is 333 km north of Toronto, still far south of Hudson Bay). Besides taking the title role in the production of Molière’s The Miser, Maurice also tutors French and is hired to tutor the very withdrawn Allan [very handsome Russian-born Canadian actor Alex Ozerov].
Allan is on a swim team and being bullied. Maurice, who swims at the same pool at the same time as the team’s practice, is infuriated by the bullying, though not knowing what he can do other than to comfort the boy.
The bullying is upsetting to watch (not just for Maurice). Allan is just realizing he is gay and is in love with or infatuated by his French tutor. The latter is suspected of pedophilia by Allan’s grandmother from the get-go (discovering he has no wife). The man and the boy are not having sex, though emotional bonding runs both ways.
Maurice has an age-appropriate suitor at the theater, Michael [Jean-Michel Le Gal], whom he first rejects after a one-night stand—before discovering where Michael works. Michael cares about Maurice and even attempts to held Allan.
When Maurice finally takes on the chief bully (nearly drowning him), he is accused of being a pedophile… and Michael learns about Maurice’s youth as the beloved of his stepfather in France. Maurice recalls that no one told him that such a relationship was wrong, though he feels guilt that the man loved him more than he loved Maurice’s mother.
There are a number of awkward and puzzling flashbacks through the movie, in contrast to the comprehensible if unsettling scenes in North Bay, a place with a Francophone theater but small-town small-mindedness.
Allan is 15, but Ozerov looks older (I tried without success to find out when he was born), so that the chaste liaison looks ephebophilic rather than pedophiliac. (When I lived in Toronto, the age of consent was 14; it was raised to 16 in 2008, though, as I have noted, the man and the boy do not have sex, so that that line is not really relevant.)
The acting is good all-around. So is Daniel Grant’s cinematography.
©2017, Stephen O. Murray