The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - UNDERGROUND | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - UNDERGROUND

underground review
A miner with a troubled past hopes to redeem himself by joining a rescue mission.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sophie Dupuis

Starring: Joakim Robillard, Théodore Pellerin, James Hyndman, Guillaume Cyr, Catherine Trudeau, Mickaël Gouin

underground poster

French-Canadian writer/director Sophie Dupuis made her feature debut a couple of years back with gangland drama Family First. That film saw Jean-Simon Leduc play a low-level mob enforcer attempting to extract his mentally challenged kid brother (Theodore Pellerin) from the clutches of a mob boss. Essentially a Quebecois riff on The Pope of Greenwich Village, it didn't offer much in the way of originality. It was however interesting to see a woman filmmaker take on this traditionally masculine genre.

Dupuis sets her second film, Underground, in another world of men. This one isn't about brothers, well, not blood brothers anyway. But it is about fraternity, set as it is in the tight knit world of Quebecois miners.

underground review

Pellerin is back, and once again he's playing a mentally challenged character. He's toned things down from the Eric Roberts on steroids performance of his previous Dupuis collaboration, and he's quite brilliant. Here he plays Julien, a former miner forced to quit his career when he was left mentally and physically disabled, not by some underground accident but by a car crash. The car involved was being driven by his best friend and fellow miner Maxime (Joakim Robillard).

Months after the incident, Maxime is so consumed with guilt that it's affecting his relationship with his wife. It doesn't help that he works alongside Julien's father, Mario (James Hyndman), who refuses to forgive Maxime for the damage caused to his son. Julien has himself forgiven Maxime, but being in his presence is often too much for Maxime to bear.

underground review

The showboating of Family First has been thankfully cast aside as Dupuis instead focusses on men who keep their emotions coiled up until they burst, usually ignited by alcohol. In the mines the men joke around with each other and sometimes cross lines, but it's shrugged off because they all have to work together - falling out just isn't an option. Maxime and Mario are often asked if they need help, and being the stubborn men they are, they brush off their problems.

What makes this community so suited for the screen is how it's populated by men who never know what to say. As such, there are no emotional speeches, no exposition dumps or backstory monologues. Sometimes the silence is awkward and uncomfortable, like when Julien's former workmates feel bad in his presence, guilty for being able to carry on. At other times the quiet is a sign of contentment, like when Maxime, Julien and two other buddies pound beers on a boat and simply enjoy each other's company.

underground review

Ultimately, Dupuis, who grew up in a family of miners, seems to suggest that there's a time for men to be quiet and a time when they really should be talking to one another. The closing image of two men sharing an emotional moment while unable to look each other in the eyes implies that the men of Underground haven't quite reached that point, but they're a little closer to getting there.

Underground is in UK cinemas and VOD from August 20th.

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