Mont Foster presents its tale primarily from the perspective of Chloe (Laurence Leboeuf), a fragile person whose mind seems delicately splintered due to recent traumatic events in her life. This personal trauma has also fractured her relationship with her husband, Mathieu (Patrick Hivon). She travels to her isolated mountain house to restore some sense of normalcy, mental clarity, and peace.
This tragedy, which is gradually revealed, has shaken Chloe to her core, causing her to suffer panic attacks, reoccurring nightmares, and hearing strange sounds echoing through the surrounding trees. Her public prosecutor husband, on the other hand, seems unphased to an almost alarming degree. Mathieu keeps his emotions in check, claiming it’s a product of his profession, but considering the gravity of their circumstances, his stoic demeanor appears slightly unnerving. Regardless, he still manages to have boundless empathy for his suffering wife and offers support during her nightly bouts.
We follow their daily routines of escape: Mathieu frequently conquers the hilly terrain on his mountain bike or studiously pounds out chapters of the novel he is writing. Meanwhile, Chloe practices eccentric rituals of tying ropes to trees, begins etching a series of sinister drawings, and takes directionless meanders through the surrounding land.
A bird dies after flying into a window, a widowmaker branch impales the windshield of their Land Rover, and other random occurrences take place during their stay. Chloe assigns these series of eerie happenings a deeper, more sinister meaning than they may truly have. At the same time, Mathieu looks upon her with compassion and pity and chalks them up to mere misfortune.
“…a fragile person whose mind seems delicately splintered due to recent traumatic events in her life.”
Interspersed throughout, we are provided animated passages from Erlkönig, a famous poem from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Those familiar with Goethe’s centuries-old tale may more quickly realize the past trauma the two had faced, but that in no way deters from the slow-building tension created throughout Mont Foster.
Filled with sweeping aerial views of the misty mountainside, rack-focus shots of the dense autumn forest, writer/director Louis Godbout successfully mounts tension as we follow the characters’ ritualistic routines. We witness Chloe’s traumatic dreams and visions as they become increasingly more threatening (as well as her obsession with fortifying her house with a patchwork of ropes and cords) and Matthieu’s steadfast, stoic demeanor despite his wife’s increasingly erratic behavior.
Both leads provide solid, grounded performances in their respective roles. Leboeuf is heartbreaking with her character’s seemingly tenuous grip on reality, and Hivon remains believably granite-steady as her ever-patient husband. Their total commitment to their roles enhances the movie’s slow-building dread. Filmed in the spacious surroundings of Quebec, cinematographer Jean-François Lord can coax out elements of the supernatural without a hint of camera trickery.
The film marks the directorial debut from Godbout, who in 2019 wrote the charming Coda starring Patrick Stewart and Katie Holmes. Here, he cautiously but effectively layers his drama with an atmospheric score, including an operatic piece from Schubert based on the original Erlkonig poem. It creeps into the movie like the fog enveloping its mountainside setting. Mont Foster is a sure-footed start that is far more interested in crafting its tension not from otherworldly beasts but what comes from within us all.
"…Godbout successfully mounts tension as we follow the characters' ritualistic routines."