Canada’s French-Canadian question will probably never be settled until we are annexed by the States, at which point we Anglo-Canucks may heave a sinister sigh of relief, reach for our popcorn and watch you guys deal with it. This film is purely a Franco-propaganda piece, not without its merits, but ultimately failing as drama for its lack of nerve. The story follows Francois-Xavier Bouchard, a member of the 1837-8 rebellions against the British in Lower Canada (Quebec), notable for his articulate diary chronicling his exiles in America and the Australian penal colonies. He is, unfortunately, not very well-carved here; when his wizened mother begs him to stay away from the fighting, and his father chastises him for wanting bloodshed, we never see resolution. We just cut away to Bouchard doing something else with voice-over like, “But we had to fight. So we got weapons and…” This neither reveals the torment of war nor elucidates Bouchard’s own reasons for fighting. Further, every English person here is a rat bastard, while the only non-french Good Guys are the Irish (fellow Catholics), whose every kindness is punished by their English masters — “Don’t talk to the prisoners, boy, get on your horse and be prepared to use your sword.” Then we have the beauty-pageant Love Interest, who — I’m serious — does nothing but gaze reproductively at our hero. The most telling moment is when the Evil Governor, who ordered the rebels executed, voices a quote from 130-years-later Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau — “Just watch me!” — a reference to his imposition of Martial Law against Quebec terrorists in 1970. The comparison is shallow: Trudeau was a Franco Catholic, you boobs, not some imported British aristocrat, and he fought the church and state of Quebec right beside Levesque and Valieres. The complexities of national determination in a post-colonial period are entirely abandoned here in favor of eye-for-an-eye bigotry, and perhaps the best illustration of this is one rebel’s complaint that even “Les Sauvages” — the savages — are siding with the British.
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