I’ve never been a fan of the trend of going back to the popular tales of generations past set in Quebec’s country- side, but this is a new low. At least, Un Homme et son péché vaguely worked as corny romance and Le Survenant had the pretence to be about tradition clashing with a changing world. I guess you could say Aurore is about how yesteryear’s French Canadian populace was blinded by its obsessive faith in the Catholic Church, but at its core it’s little more than child abuse porn.
I’m sure the filmmakers had honorable intentions when they decided to make another adaptation of the tragic true story of Aurore Gagnon, which had already inspired books, plays and a 1952 movie. Children are still victims of violence and, too often, they suffer in silence as relatives and neighbors turn the other way. The thinking goes that by telling these stories, it will encourage people to denounce similar horrors around them. That’s fine, but do we need to focus on all the sordid details in primetime interviews with the victims, tell-all books and movies like this? Are we that voyeuristic?
I could forgive the fetishizing of martyrdom if the film displayed a hint of subtlety or emotional resonance. Alas, first time director Luc Dionne constantly resorts to clichés, cheap morality and manipulative sentimentality. The happy earlier days of little Aurore with her mother overflow with cloying cuteness to make sure they contrast with the hell she’ll endure with her careless father and his temptress cousin, who seduces him while his wife is still in the hospital dying of tuberculosis. Not obvious enough? While they enjoy adultery, Dionne zooms in on Bad Daddy’s hand caressing Evil Stepmom’s back, his wedding ring ominously shining on his finger. Then at Angelic Mommy’s funeral, Evil Stepmom wears a trampy red dress. Boo! Hiss!
This might be nitpicking, but I was also annoyed by the way Dionne constantly jumps from scene to scene by cutting off characters mid-sentence and quickly fading to back. Did he not shoot enough coverage? And am I the only one tired of these super-productions where even the smallest part is filled by a “vedette” from Star Académie, Ramdam, Les Bougon, 4 et demi, Ramdam, Super sans plomb, Relevez le défi, Km/h or La Guerre des clans?
The all-star cast spends most of the movie at the magasin général, gossiping but refusing to get involved, while Bad Daddy and Evil Stepmom beat the shit out of Aurore with a 2X4 with nails sticking out, an ax handle, a fire poker or their good old hardworking mitts. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that she ends up dying from her wounds, making everyone feel guilty, especially the arrogant town priest who condoned these “corrections”. The clergyman feels so bad that he digs his own grave and blows himself up with dynamite. Like I told you, subtlety.