CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 9 . . . .December 21, 2007
Portrait of a Perfect Stranger.
Claude Guilmain (Writer & Director). Claudette Jaiko (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
20 min., 39 sec., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153E9906 365.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Frank Loreto.
In Portrait of a Perfect Stranger, filmmaker Claude Guilmain attempts to put the pieces of his late brother's broken life into something that maybe would make some sense to him.
Guilmain and his mother are called to the hospital when his brother André is dying. Painfully, Guilmain describes the moments that led to his brother's last breath. Interspersed with this description are interviews with André's friends. These paint the picture of someone who had been through a very difficult time with alcohol, only to be inflicted with cancer just as he was trying to come clean.
This is a very moving testament to his brother, but too many questions are left unanswered. Very little is said about why André's life took this turn. Less is stated about why the two brothers had not seen each other for a year before André's death. Could anything have been done to help? Should Guilmain have helped in some way? Perhaps he is saying that after the fact is too late to try to construct a relationship.
Most of the interviews are done in French with subtitles, and the film would not grab the attention of a high school class.
This is not a cautionary tale as André's life is still basically unknown by the end of the film. Perhaps it is one brother's act of contrition for not preventing death of the other. In any event, Portrait of a Perfect Stranger, while stylistically interesting, is not recommended for a school audience.
Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.
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