Put aside your prejudices for a moment. And imagine if you could get a group of homeless people together, take them to the countryside, maybe down to the water, to some kind of summer camp, for the summer? Sheer madness? Social worker fantasy? Or glimmer of humanity?
There’s a lot of that behind Le temps d’unété, a happy summer feature that will be released next Friday. In addition to an avowed desire to tell a story that simply feels good. And these days, when the bad news rolls in, it can’t exactly hurt.
The film, directed by Louise Archambault, stars Patrice Robitaille in the role of Marc, a tired and indebted priest, who by happy chance inherits an estate in Bas-du-Fleuve. He decides on a whim and with the complicity of a colleague (Élise Guilbault) to bring half a dozen homeless people with him. To pay them a vacation, quite simply. Offer them a semblance of carelessness. And a je-ne-sais-quoi of family life. “Because if we can’t get a gang to spend a summer in the country, I really don’t know what we’re doing here,” says Marc’s character in the trailer, in a line feeling that sets the tone.
We owe this original idea to Marie Vien. The screenwriter (La passion d’Augustine) volunteered for years at La Maison du Père. And that’s where this dream was born, sorry, this new idea for a scenario. “I saw this fresco of life there and I became attached to them,” she says.
“I wanted this. I saw them every week, and my God, but what could happen if we gave them the chance, for a summer, to be in contact with nature, to live together, if we gave them a family ? “says Marie Vien. In short, to break their loneliness.
Delusional utopia? The homeless are not a homogeneous group. There is a “social fresco”, summarizes the screenwriter. “There are those who are very visible. Read: Those who make noise and you wouldn’t necessarily take on vacation with you. But no, not all of them are so “poked” either. “It also exists, the forgotten little old woman, the soldier who had a traumatic shock in Afghanistan, the Congolese refugee, it exists! She came across it, and she was inspired by it. Just like the character of Marc, moreover, a mixture of several priests and other street chaplains encountered, with often unsuspected life paths. “I have met so many priests who have revealed things to me. There are some who have adopted children, lived parallel lives…” We won’t tell you more, but know that the opening scene is quite amazing, thank you.
That being said, the idea of the “summer camp” is definitely his own. The fruit of his imagination. “I wanted us to dive into a bath of humanity, with all that is beautiful, but also ugly, magical and funny, continues the director. And I hope that the spectators will also let themselves be transported by the humanity of the characters, which transcends differences, homelessness and misery. »
And it is this humanity that precisely hooked the director Louise Archambault (Gabrielle) in the scenario. “I’ve always been curious about the other, how the other finds their way, how different characters find their happiness,” she says in turn.
Along with Marie Vien, Louise Archambault also volunteered at La Maison du Père, but her interest goes back much further. From university, she made projects on homelessness. She even made a fiction about a homeless man at the end of her baccalaureate at Concordia. “I’ve always wondered about the left behind. We are full of humans on the planet, not necessarily born in the same conditions, but all, in the end, with the same needs. »
Because deep down, she continues, “maybe we’re more alike than we think”?
She knows it, her film is timely. “Is there something about the news, about the climate of concern? […] Yes, I want it to feel good. That it fills the heart, she confirms, but without being empty of content. »
Because of course, there is this risk of falling into lightness, or cliché, and the director is well aware of this. To avoid certain pitfalls or regional stereotypes, Louise Archambault also wanted to hire local extras (a strategy also adopted during the filming of It was raining birds), from Sainte-Luce or Rimouski. “To be all there, serving the same story. »
As for the proposal, which is certainly a bit jovial, Louise Archambault simply accepts it. “You have to own it,” she smiled. It’s a fiction, but I don’t think it’s utopian. These homeless people who have nothing left, who have lost their jobs and become dependent, no longer have any resources. Except that when they are transported to “holiday camp”, she defends, “bonds are forged”. “They are accompanied,” she argues. And when you have help, you have resources. […] It sure makes a difference. »
And this help is due to the key figure of the priest, a figure very far from Patrice Robitaille, it should be emphasized. And he does it laughing.
Nevertheless, it was necessary to dare, to stage a priest as the main character, in 2023. Will the spectators embark on the proposal? “That’s the big question. It’s a super beautiful film, which feels good, with mind-blowing images, in an incredible filming location, says Patrice Robitaille. Me, I discovered places in Quebec where I had never stopped. And then it’s hard not to buy into the lofty underlying message: “Behind all the crippled, there are human beings just waiting to be helped.” Because it is not true that they have all dropped out of society and they no longer want to know anything about anyone, concludes Patrice Robitaille. And it can just feel good to do good…”
Well said, well.