Marc is a parish priest and has cared for the poor and homeless for 25 years. The man is tired, worn out, and above all, crippled with debt. His church threatens to close, when he inherits by a blow of fate a domain on the edge of the river. It’s decided: he’s going there for the summer, with a gang of homeless people with him.

It is not a sect. Nor a municipality. But a kind of improbable “holiday camp”, which arrives one fine day in Sainte-Blandine-sur-Mer, a small bucolic village with the air of a postcard from Bas-Saint-Laurent.

There are a dozen of them, priest Marc (noble and surprising Patrice Robitaille) and his accomplice, sister Monique (wise and convincing Élise Guilbault), with their joyful heterogeneous troop of homeless people, leaving the city and its concrete to come here. outdoors, and enjoy the summer holidays.

This original idea and this somewhat unexpected scenario, signed Marie Vien (La passion d’Augustine, 14 jours 12 nuits), directed by Louise Archambault (Gabrielle, It was raining birds), could have fallen into the trap of levity . Or worse, caricature. But it is quite the opposite that awaits us here. With finesse, modesty, and infinite sensitivity (not to mention the concrete cast, with big names including Guy Nadon, Gilbert Sicotte and Sébastien Ricard), we are instead witnessing a story full of humanity, life lessons, hard destinies and good feelings included. A kind of journey, or rather a road trip, with his music as present as it is essential (Pierre Kwenders, Richard Desjardins, Leonard Cohen), to gently rock it all. And it does crazy good.

Yes, it’s a slow movie. Contemplative. And that’s perfect. The time of a summer is not a talkative film either. Dialogues are never free. And the silences often speak volumes. The film also recalls at times La grande séduction (Jean-François Pouliot), with its foray into the region, as well as Nomadland (Chloé Zhao), with its intimate portrait of the life of the less well-off. An itinerant life that continues to make the news, although less poetically, it should be remembered.

Of course not, not everything will go smoothly. There will be skirmishes between our budding vacationers, and the villagers won’t exactly welcome them with open arms.

Nevertheless. The narrative remains deliberately luminous, although care has been taken not to water down the characters either: our homeless people swear, drink and tell each other their four truths. The villagers too. And that is where they reveal themselves. Here, a defrocked lawyer, there, a Congolese refugee. But also a suicidal trans woman, a youth from the DPJ, a young pregnant Inuit and an ex-soldier.

The screenwriter volunteered for years at La Maison du Père and it shows. His characters are as diverse as they are true. And if Guy Nadon, always grandiloquent, indeed bursts the screen in a tailor-made role, all his partners also shine in turn. Even the unwelcoming and naughty service guy (Sébastien Ricard) ends up being endearing (but that will take time!).

Impossible to ignore the magnificent shots of the river and the visual aesthetics, which add a touch of beauty to this story which does not lack it. And even if the finale is as improbable as the preamble, we let ourselves be taken in believing it. And to dream about it… the time of a viewing.