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Underground (Souterrain)


Stars: Joakim Robillard, Theodore Pellerin, James Hyndman, Chantal Fontaine, Guillaume Cyr, Catherine Trudeau, Bruno Marcil, Jean-Francois Boudreau, Lauren Hartley

Director: Sophie Dupuis

An unutterably sad and sometimes quite grim account of the stories behind a mining explosion at an island facility just off the Canadian coast.

The film opens on a stunning shot of far-distant miners' head-lights moving slowly towards us through the mine's tunnels. Director Dupuis obviously loves this shot, and why not - it's a great one. She ends the movie with a similar scene, but in between we concentrate on Max (Robillard), a young miner with a head-full of stress.

His drunk-driving has left a young fellow-miner, Julien (a sensational performance by Pellerin), with brain damage, and disabilities similar to those from a major stroke, as he has difficulty speaking, and no use of his right arm or leg. Julien's devastated father (Hyndman) has never forgiven Max, in spite of his continual efforts to make amends.

At the same time, Max's wife (Fontaine) is suffering another miscarriage, despite their efforts with in vitro treatment. She wants to adopt, but Max is against the very idea.

All the time, the dangerous mining goes on, and one slip could mean disaster.

Although the film is a little slow in places, and its dialogue (written by the director) merely functional, the anguish of its situations speaks for itself, and the keenly-observed bantering camaraderie of the miners comes across as true to life.

Although my French isn't too bad, the French-Canadian patois is sometimes difficult to follow and I was grateful for the subtitles.

In cinemas, virtual cinemas and video-on-demand

David Quinlan

Canada 2020. UK Distributor: Sovereign. Colour (unspecified).
97 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 18 Aug 2021