Myriam Verreault’s Kuessipan is a captivating story about two teenage girl’s friendship on a Quebec Innu reserve.
Myriam Verreault’s Kuessipan is one of the most captivating character dramas at the festival. Mikuan (a stunning lead performance from Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine) is such a compelling character because there’s so much to her: witty, stubborn, loyal, sharply intelligent yet still a naïve and idealistic sixteen-year-old. The film’s heart is in Mikuan’s relationship with her best friend, Shaniss (Yamie Grégoire). The two of them grew up together in a Quebec Innu reserve; from a young age, they swore to always stick together. Mikuan’s desire to leave the reserve to study in the city, her burgeoning relationship with a white boy, and the stress Shaniss is under as a new mother in an abusive relationship, test the two girls’ bond more than ever before.
The film, based on a novel, retains many of the pitfalls of book adaptations, with its multiple sprawling narrative turns that distract from the story’s core relationship. But Verreault’s filmmaking is skilful and briskly paced, especially in its tightly edited first act. Her actresses command our attention both in quieter moments and in (sometimes overwrought) slips into melodrama. It’s a coming-of-age story that stands out from the pack for its soulfulness.
Still seeking distribution in the US, UK, and Canada
Kuessipan screens 9/10 at 8:30 p.m. (Jackman Hall) and 9/14 at 2:45 p.m. (Scotiabank Theatre). Tickets here.