Friday, 23 February 2018

Strangers in Good Company (The Company of Strangers)



A friend lent us this film and I'm glad they did - it's a gift. If you prefer action movies with explosions and CGI monsters, then this is not for you. If you want something unique and quite different that will slow you down and invite reflection on the things that are important in life to you, then watch this film.

The immediate back story is unimportant. Seven older women find themselves on a bus tour with their driver/guide in a remote rural location in Quebec when the bus breaks down. They slowly make their way through the countryside in search of help and shelter and find an abandoned cottage overlooking a lake and valley. A vision of Eden perhaps?

Although the plot's key points were already conceived, the dialogue in the film is improvised and the route the characters take to navigate their own wilderness experience is up to them as a collective - each one drawing on their own real life. Their cheerful resourcefulness quickly knits them into a fun-filled community as they share what little food they have and improvise ways to catch to fresh fish and frogs.

The women are:
  • Alice Diabo, 74, a Mohawk elder from Kahnawake, Quebec,
  • Constance Garneau, 88, born in the US and brought to Quebec by her family as a child,
  • Winifred Holden, 76, an Englishwoman who moved to Montreal after World War II,
  • Cissy Meddings, 76, who was born in England and moved to Canada in 1981,
  • Mary Meigs, 74, a noted feminist writer and painter,
  • Catherine Roche, 68, a Roman Catholic nun,
  • Michelle Sweeney, 27, a jazz singer and the bus trip's tour guide,
  • Beth Webber, 80, who was born in England and moved to Montreal in 1930.

Throughout their ordeal, the film often features just two of the women in conversation sharing recollections about their past, their family and their philosophy of life honed by decades of experience. Black and white photos are edited in over the dialogue showing the women in bygone days. Never is the dialogue forced or boring. It repeatedly reveals unexpected gems about some past incident, a way of life, an orientation. Nothing is forced and there is no feeling that you have to buy into anyone's ideas in order to authenticate the story. It is simply offered - as a gift. This film is a wonderful example of the positive power of reflective practice.

At first, the prospect of watching this didn't grip me or fill me with excitement - but it's not that kind of film. I'm glad I did watch it and I'm happy to commend it to you. Light the fire, pour a glass of wine and snuggle up on the sofa. Allow yourself to slip into the ladies world and you'll find yourself in good company, even if they are strangers. I'll give it 8/10.


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