Unexpectedly, the movie so accurately captures the horror and humiliation a child often goes through while suffering from nocturnal enuresis, or "bedwetting," when we see Zach get outed by kids at summer camp. By avoiding sleepovers, I managed to successfully keep my bedwetting known only to my immediate family, but that is where I was also shamed by my step-mother and step-brothers who lectured and teased me about being either too lazy or too chicken to go upstairs to the bathroom. My father, more nurturing in his approach but still lacking understanding, also believed it was voluntary. When I was five, a couple of years before my step-family came into the picture, he started paying me $5 for every night that I didn't wet the bed, inadvertently seeding my humiliation and confusion over whether I could fix myself if I really wanted to and why it it was that I subconsciously chose not to. Unlike 0.5-1% of adults out there and all people in the LGBT community, my developmental abnormality abruptly came to an end at age 13, confirming that assigning neurosis to my condition was absurd. Fortunately, kids are now blessed with the internet to educate themselves and even their families.
The message both me and Zachary learned is the same: do not trust people with your differences, exposing yourself will only result in further isolation and loneliness. This lesson is more acutely relevant for Zach, because he was also born with a more polarizing and permanent sexual difference that his father and society also believes are chosen behaviors, and he doesn't want to be outed again.
My biggest criticism with the film is that it seems confused and possibly ignorant about the main character's identity. When Zach is a young boy, he shows strong signs of "gender identity disorder," where he only wants a baby stroller for Christmas and he dresses up in his mother's clothes, puts on makeup, and acts like a mother to his infant brother. In the next timeline transition, immediately after his summer camp bedwetting trauma, this desire and behavior disappears entirely and never returns in the film, including when we see him alone. Instead, he becomes hardened and aggressive with a strong counterculture fashion sense and discovering an attraction to men. It's as if another writer took over and switched out Zach's brain, or at least the transgendered part.
On paper, this may look like a 'coming of age' or 'coming out' movie about growing up gay, and that is indeed the main conflict of the film. However, the family, all of them, are a living, breathing, loving and flawed unit. The sexual identity theme is incidental to what is a much larger and more meaningful message about family, love and acceptance. What Vallee shows in his script is an empathy and understanding of a wide array of different points of view; generations, and varying levels of self-awareness.
The 60s and 70s setting, (this is my own era, so I'm qualified) is staged in a completely convincing, organic and restrained way. It's never cheesy or ironic nostalgia. The songs by Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, Charles Aznavour and especially Patsy Cline are contextually perfect, and support the drama and characters seamlessly. Valee's occasional flights of fancy and surrealism are just the right amount of seasoning to a mostly realistic film, but are never excessive. The 'Sympathy for the Devil' dream sequence is celebratory, joyful and extremely pertinent to a changing society, (in particular a changing Quebec which at the time is abruptly transitioning away from the dominant influence of the Catholic church).
I could not recommend this film highly enough. It lives in the same pantheon as coming of age cinema classics like 'The 400 Blows', 'Fanny and Alexander' or 'My Life as a Dog', in my humble opinion. Don't miss it.
Cleverly working it's way from Birth to present day you really feel you see the character grow and develop before your eyes.
Besides the qualitative writing, the true forte of this movie lies in its outstanding directing. Not since "Amelie from Montmartre" have I been treated to such a heavenly combo of good storytelling and visual superbness. At least, not as it comes to non-Hollywood productions.
All in all a must-see if you're in the mood for a great foreign-language film. Or as the french-canadians would say: Très bien!