The camera is often still, shooting in medium or close-ups. So it’s not like the cinematography is used to get into the main character’s headspace. It’s all so bland. At nearly two hours, the awful direction and the bad writing for half of the central duo could’ve been the kiss of death for the film.
But, Kuessipan has a few aces up its sleeves. For one, the entire cast is brilliant. For as poorly written as her character is, Yamie Grégoire proves to be a captivating screen presence. One never questions her love for her friend because the young lady sells every moment authentically. Douglas Grégoire imbues Greg with absolute menace, playing a violent sociopath to creeping perfection. Étienne Galloy is terrific as Francis. After tragedy strikes, his pondering about life’s meaning and what he truly wants makes total sense.
But, most crucially of all is Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine as Mikuan. This young actor will be a huge star if she chooses to continue down this career path. She lights up the room with effortless charm, and her statements during school — her use of Japan as modern culture holding strong to tradition in particular — come across as nuanced in a mannered and thoughtful way that shows she is wise beyond her years. It’s a startling performance with enough raw power and honest emotion to ably overcome any issues present in the screenplay and directing. Fontaine is a shoo-in nomination for the next Academy Awards based on this performance.
“…Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine…lights up the room with effortless charm…”
Another positive is the wonderfully evocative score by Louis-Jean Cormier. The composer ensures every story beat, no matter how contrived, feels genuine and earned as the music elegantly guides viewers from scene to scene. The final positive is what pushes Kuessipan into very light recommendation territory. The characters being indigenous peoples does not feel like a forced studio push for diversity. It is central to their identity, the way they see the world, and (one of) the message the filmmakers wish to impart.
This organic weaving allows for an authentic view of a world most filmgoers know little or nothing about. It helps push the plot past its bare-bones narrative, which offers precious few surprises. Although the tragedy, as mentioned earlier (a death), throws things into sharp relief and really should have happened much sooner, as the fallout from this would have allowed for a more natural fit for why the two best friends begin drifting apart (as it stands now one is a close-minded fool and the other does not like that about her).
Kuessipan could and should be trimmed to a tidy 90 minutes. Excising the pointless prologue entirely, moving the death much earlier, and exploring how that affects these characters would uncover the diamond in the rough story buried underneath poor character motivations and lousy dialogue. Even with the tepid direction, enacting those changes, with this wonderful cast, lead by a remarkably talented Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine, would make this a must-see. As it stands, this coming-of tale fails to fulfill its true potential but still skirts on by to be worthy of watching once.
"…central to their identity [and] the way they see the world..."