There’s almost no way a film about the loss of a child could be anything but dark. However, “Chorus” goes a bit too far. Currently making the festival rounds, the Canadian drama seems afraid of even the smallest bit of levity. From harrowing beginning to tragic end, “Chorus” has many excellent compelling moments, but could have eased back a bit and been just as effective.
A decade ago, eight-year-old Hugo disappeared without a trace. His father Christophe (Sebastien Ricard) followed his broken heart to Mexico, where he scrapes by with odd jobs and occasional lovers. Mother Irene (Fanny Mallette) stayed behind in Montreal, where she sings with a chorus specializing in ancient music and supports her needy mother (Genevieve Bujold) who lost her own husband to suicide. But when a surprise confession leads to the discovery of Hugo’s body, Christophe and Irene are reunited and must confront their past, present and future.
My main issue with “Chorus” is that it takes no prisoners. Virtually every opportunity for darkness and depression is taken with a vengeance. Black and white film? Check. A father who not only committed suicide but left the family in deep debt? Check. Fainting, crying and screaming? Check, check and check. Sometimes the film’s stark nature was very appropriate – after all, the story centers around a young child’s death – but when one and a half hours feels like three, there’s a problem. Also, the recurring voiceover narration (part of the “chorus” of the film’s title) was well-intentioned but very superfluous. Ricard and Mallette are wonderful actors with exquisite, expressive faces. Hearing their innermost thoughts is unnecessary.
“Chorus” isn’t without beautifully filmed, emotionally rich scenes. Ricard and Mallette’s chemistry pops off the screen, and their history and lingering love are ever-believable. If only director Francois Delisle had given the audience a little more gentleness, “Chorus” could have been a stellar portrayal of unyielding grief.