THE AUCTION (Le démantèlement)

(director/writer: Sebastien Pilote; cinematographer: Michel La Veaux; editor: Stéphane Lafleur; music: Serge Nakaushi-Pelletier; cast: Gabriel Arcand (Gaby Gagnon), Lucie Laurier (Marie Gagnon), Gilles Renaud (Accountant / Friend), Sophie Desmarais (Frédérique Gagnon), Johanne-Marie Tremblay (Françoise), Normand Carrière (Léo Simard), Jean Wauthier (Gaby’s brother), (); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Daigle Marc /Payeur Bernadette; Film Movement; 2013-Canada-in French with English subtitles)

It punches the viewer in the gut with a belly full of reality, that emotionally has knock out power.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Sebastien Pilote(“The Salesman”) helms an elegantly told minimalist domestic drama set on a rural farm in Quebec. It punches the viewer in the gut with a belly full of reality, that emotionally has knock out power. Its star, playing an aging sheep farmer, Gabriel Arcand, won the best actor award at the Canadian Screen Awards.

The aging grandfather Gaby Gagnon (Gabriel Arcand) is a quiet, resolute man, who operates alone an old-fashioned sheep farm and seems well-adjusted to his lonely but serene lifestyle and living without a computer. Gaby is divorced and has two grown daughters who live on their own in the same city. The oldest is married with two young boys, the 30-year-old Marie (Lucie Laurier), and the other is the more estranged younger one, the single Frédérique (Sophie Desmarais), involved in the theater. The resigned to his bitter-sweet fate Gaby hardly sees either, who both live a six-hour car ride away.

On a Saturday morning Marie drives-up with her two little boys and stays overnight at the family farm, as she tells her caring, hard-working father she’s deeply in debt and is getting divorced from her English businessman husband and needs $200,000 to get the house from him. She asks daddy to get a bank loan, and he will later tell her he’s working things out with the bank even though they flatly turn him down and remind him he’s already in heavy debt. Instead of the loan, Gaby plans to sell his farm at an auction, something his accountant friend (Gilles Renaud) wisely advises him not to do because he won’t survive without the farm and that he did enough for the spoiled girls when he lavishly raised them.

Naturally Gaby’s life unravels in this straight-forward film, with no twists up its sleeve, as he contacts an auction house to unload his farmhouse he owned for the last 60 years and once the details are ironed out there’s no way out of the deal. Gaby reminds us of Shakespeare’s Lear, as the touching story forces us to ponder when is enough in helping out your children and how they return kindness with selfishness.

Though not cinema friendly as an entertainment film or burning with ideas to be an arthouse film, instead it plays as a tense melancholy domestic dramatization that has a great emotional impact on the viewer as he/she watches such a grim reality story go down as a moralistic tale of great self-sacrifice. The story is so hard-edged that it doesn’t even spare the sympathetic protagonist’s pet sheepdog from the impending tragedy.