Claude Jutra was so important to Quebecois cinema that they even named Canada’s top film prize after him before a scandal was uncovered. And this film is the pinnacle of his career. Set in an asbestos mining town during the 1940s, the mountainous landscape is barren and desolate. The poisonous asbestos casts a deadly shadow over the town’s residents. Fifteen-year-old Benoît helps out at his aunt’s little shop with another young employee, Carmen. The teenagers flirt as they prepare for Christmas. Sadly, the neighbour’s son has died of illness. Hence, Benoît has to follow his undertaker uncle, Antoine, on his trip to transport the corpse. When Benoît’s reckless manoeuvring of the sleigh in the snowy night leads to a regrettable incident, viewers get a glimpse of the dignity, frailty and deception in small-town life. Jutra’s delicate character portrayals, in addition to cinematographer Michel Brault’s calm gaze, deliver a moving film about mortality and generational differences. Through a young man’s eyes, the film is able to present the historical and cultural crises that Quebec must face before and after the 1949 miners’ strike. In the eve of a revolution, this coming-of-age story is also a microcosm of its era.
Best Feature Film, Best Direction (Feature), Best Original Screenplay (Feature), Best Performance by a Lead Actor (Feature), Best Cinematography, Canada Film Awards 1971
No 1 of Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time, Toronto International Film Festival 1984, 1993, 2004