The day after her mother’s death, Elsie is given a mission: find the five husbands of the deceased and invite them to mark her disappearance with a symbolic gesture. Embarked in spite of herself on this quest, the young woman will discover tender beings who will help to rekindle a flame in her heart.

A first film often feels like a first date: a mixture of longing and doubt, shyness and disclosure. Anik Jean (director) and Maryse Latendresse (screenplay) both admitted to having waited (too) long before daring to go into film. My Mother’s Men, however, bears no trace of hesitation or restraint: it is a work that impresses with its mastery and nuance.

Elsie (Léane Labrèche-Dor), character at the heart of the story imagined by Maryse Latendresse, is going through mourning. Her mother, to whom she was close even if it is suspected that their relationship was not simple, dies at the first scene. A predictable death. The surprise is rather the legacy made by the mother to her daughter: in the form of a notarized letter, she asks him to find each of her five ex-husbands. Each of them will then have to scatter a fifth of their ashes in a significant place.

Nothing for me ? Elsie asks in disbelief. The notary (Louis-George Girard) confirms: she is the sole heiress of the material goods of her mother Anne (Anne-Marie Cadieux), but the latter left no tender words for her daughter, a gesture which adds anger and frustration to the pain and the floating feeling that Elsie already feels.

Cynics may find that the story leads to a predictable conclusion. It doesn’t ring any less true. Especially since all the artisans of the film avoided the main trap that could have awaited them: sentimentality.

One of the strengths of Maryse Latendresse’s end screenplay is to show that one and the same person can find something to love in seemingly totally different people. My Mother’s Men also benefits from the clear vision and sure instinct of Anik Jean, an artist best known for his rock records, who signs here his first major film, which depicts with great nuance men all inhabited by a kind of tenderness.

Her anger and disappointment rumble within, and even in the more comedic scenes she never loses sight of the drama of the story she is helping to bring to life. His playing partners all share this sense of proportion, and we must underline the interpretation of Benoît Gouin, both touching and funny as a bar owner not particularly comfortable with emotions.

Anik Jean readily admits it, she listened to her actors (all experienced) and their proposals. Which has certainly served her. However, her film would not have this coherence if she did not herself have such a fair intuition and the sensitivity necessary to find the most promising leads in what her team had to offer her.

My Mother’s Men is a controlled and touching work. A beautiful film (the cinematography and staging are frankly successful), full of music (the soundtrack includes Nick Cave as much as Mara Tremblay), which displays its artistic ambitions without ever taking itself for an aesthete’s film . Which we will certainly not blame him for. Maryse Latendresse and Anik Jean enter the world of cinema through the front door with this film.