It is a love story that reflects on the differences between social classes. Sophia (Magalie Lépine-Blondeau) is married to Xavier (Francis-William Rhéaume), who lives in the same world of wealthy intellectuals as her. The two teachers love each other (or appreciate each other?) without really experiencing their love. Sophia meets Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), a construction worker with whom she has almost nothing in common. Their attraction is intense and cannot be contained.
The director of Babysitter and My Brother’s Wife wonders if love can be enough when the environment you come from causes splits that seep into the couple. “I wanted to tell a love story,” says Monia Chokri, met earlier this week, with Magalie Lépine-Blondeau and Pierre-Yves Cardinal.
But how can we show such a marked opposition between two people and their entourage without falling into caricature, without ever denigrating one side or the other? “I infuse humanity, by working on their flaws and their fragility, but without judging them,” says Monia Chokri. Life is not all black and white. »
“What I saw immediately when reading the script is that Monia loves and defends all her characters,” notes Pierre-Yves Cardinal. We feel that it is not Manichean. She does not try to lecture the spectators. »
“A large part of the film is about adulterous love and we never condemn it,” says actress Magalie Lépine-Blondeau. Monia makes no judgment. It’s very modern. »
Pierre-Yves Cardinal likes Monia Chokri’s Sylvain to be complex, far from being “simple” in the derogatory sense of the term.
When Sylvain meets Sophia, explains the actor, he feels that he will be able to discover new things. “There’s this physical communion, but also this opportunity to develop something psychic. He is very fond of it, even if it is very clumsy, which creates a lot of humor. » This new feature film by Monia Chokri is also very funny. The filmmaker, who doesn’t like labels much, describes her feature film as a melancholy comedy.
It’s “the tenderness and kindness during filming” that we feel coming through the screen when we watch Simple like Sylvain. This is how Magalie Lépine-Blondeau, who is in every shot of this film, talks about it. But these are also the words of Pierre-Yves Cardinal. They explain the same thing to us: if this film is so beautiful to see, it is partly because it was beautiful to make.
The story is often melancholic, sometimes told in a comical way (“Monia is one of the only people who make me laugh!” says Magalie Lépine-Blondeau), other times more dramatic. We see tenderness there, but also distress. Beyond what the screenplay tells us, there is the story that Chokri and his team wrote by making a film where we talk about female desire, passionate love, frustrated loves and disagreements between social classes, in an atmosphere where gentleness prevailed.
“It’s inseparable from the fact that it was Monia who directed,” believes Magalie Lépine-Blondeau. The relationship between Sylvain and Sophia draws on a feverish passion which, throughout, is notably shown in scenes where they consummate this love. To film them, the actors did not wish to be accompanied by an intimacy coordinator.
“Everything was already in the script. After that, Monia really took the time with Pierre-Yves and me. We discussed these scenes and she explained her vision to us very precisely. There was trust between us and also great respect,” says the actress.
Simple comme Sylvain revolves around Sophia’s desire. We are witnessing a convincing demonstration of the cinematic female gaze, which emancipates women from the role of those that men observe. We therefore do not see the actress’s naked body in the film. “I don’t see any point in my work,” says Monia Chokri. She is the one who is a being of desire, I don’t need to film her, because the interest is in what she looks at. »
“So many things are conveyed and it was in the writing as well as in the direction,” continues Magalie Lépine-Blondeau.
The Cannes Film Festival loved Simple comme Sylvain. It’s the turn of the Quebec public to have the chance to form their own opinion on this third Chokri film.
“I’m excited, but happy,” says Monia Chokri. I was able to meet an audience in Europe especially, but I hope that it will have a good reception here, because, ultimately, we make cinema for our nation, to think together. »