CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Montreal Girls is the story of a young, sheltered Middle-Eastern student named Ramy (Hakim Brahimi) who comes to Montreal to study medicine. He is haunted by the recent death of his mother from cancer and keeps his innermost thoughts about her in his journal of dark poetry. Ramy is inexperienced in the ways of the world, finding the charms of the Bohemian underground scene in Montreal seductive and distracting. At the instigation of his punk rock-playing cousin, Tamer (Jade Hassouné), Ramy finds himself immersed in the nightlife of the city and enjoying the attentions of two beautiful women, Desiree (Jasmina Parent) and Yaz (Sana Asad).
Ramy also drifts into the orbit of a French poetry group and is mesmerized by a third woman, Sophia (Nahéma Ricci). His world is turned upside down as he is surrounded by people and emotions he’s never known before. Ramy’s memories of his mother drive him to question the path in life that’s set before him, seemingly with only his father’s input. He discovers there may be a passion that lies beyond medicine for him, with Desiree and Yaz representing the opposing influences of stability and chaos, both of whom he’s drawn to.
For Montreal Girls, director/co-writer Patricia Chica drew from her own experiences in the Montreal subcultures to paint a vivid, layered tapestry of life in the city. Her writing partner, Kamal John Iskander, modeled Ramy on himself, recounting his introduction to Montreal, coming from a Middle-Eastern background. The dialogue switches between English, Arabic, and French, reflecting the authentic nature of the characters, which is true to the city.
“…Ramy finds himself immersed in the nightlife of the city and enjoying the attentions of two beautiful women…”
The performances bring the story to life with genuine feelings. Brahimi, as Ramy, carries himself with determination as a young man looking for his way in life until his head is turned dramatically by the women that help change everything. Parent, Asad, and Ricci deliver beautiful performances as the gentle muses that at first tear the main character apart but then show him how to rebuild a more authentic life based on his passions.
In films where the protagonist radically changes their life for love, art, or money, it’s fun to game out the five years following the finale; to imagine what happens next. The depth of your cynicism dictates where you see the characters a few years later. The film provokes questions about whether the choices made were right and whether they did lead to a happier life down the line. If the path was wrong, would there still be time to correct it?
Ramy’s dramatic examination of his life in Montreal is highlighted by the stunning cinematography of Alexandre Bussière, who paints the city and the people in beautiful light and color. The soundtrack further informs the brilliant images with songs perfectly pitched to the emotion of the moments. As a result, Montreal Girls is as much a visual and sonic poem as it is narrative storytelling.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In speaking with writer/director Patricia Chica, she mentioned that Montreal Girls was the first film shot using Chi Energy. The entire cast and crew participated in various activities promoting Chi Energy, including meditations and many decisions regarding the set environment. Even the soundtrack fell in line with this philosophy.
Montreal Girls screened at the 2022 Cinequest Film Festival.
"…a visual and sonic poem..."