Starring: Jean-Carl Boucher, Sandrine Bisson, Claudio Colangelo
Directed by: Ricardo Trogi
Ricardo Trogi’s 1981 is a peculiar film in that it’s a fun movie to watch as long as you’re not expecting it to go anywhere. There isn’t so much a point A and point B as there is a start and a finish. Basically, we’re offered a glimpse in Ricardo Trogi’s (which is the name of the character as the director named him after himself) confusing pre-adolescence. It’s a bit frustrating to watch because you’re never really sure what the point of the movie is. However, there are so many parts of this movie that feel like they’ve been borrowed from our own childhoods that make the movie feel special.
Ricardo Trogi (the character played by Jean-Carl Boucher) has just recently moved to a new town. He has no friends at his new school although he tries desperately to fit in. His favourite thing in the world is a Consumers Distributing catalogue and carries it around like a child would a security blanket. He dreams of buying up all the things he desires in the catalogue. His parents are loving but there is both of a disconnect between them and Ricardo. Ricardo is incredibly materialistic which frustrate his parents to no-end. Ricardo will also do anything to get accepted by his peers. He lies about his ability to gain access to pornography to be able to hang out with a small gang of kids at his school. He also is smitten with Anne Tremblay (Élizabeth Adam), a girl in his class. In an effort to win her over, he steals a marble she brought in for show-and-tell with the plan to give it back to her later declaring that he found it. However, most of the time, the plans in Ricardo’s head never come close to how things unfold in reality.
The film is really good at building an emotional connection with the audience. Whether it be the use of nostalgia (who doesn’t remember the Consumers Distributing catalogue?) or seeing some of the things Ricardo do or experience mirror stuff that has happened in our lives. It’s easy to chuckle at Ricardo’s insane attempts to fit in but most of us have been there. It’s also just as hurtful to see the pain in Ricardo’s father’s (Claudio Colangelo) eyes when he realizes that his son is embarrassed by his profession; because most have us have been there when our parents are hurt by our actions where we try and see ourselves as better than them. For this, Trogi deserves all the praise in the world because he perfectly captured childhood for many people, not just of those whose parents were immigrants, and not just Quebecers, but for most children of our generation.
The major flaw with the movie is that it’s hard to figure out where this film is headed. It doesn’t feel there really is any sense of purpose. Sure, we see character arcs and storylines, but it feels more like the movie was meant to capture a particular time period rather than try to tell a larger story. There are plenty of themes, but nothing feels like it was supposed to be constructed into a set order. It’s as if Trogi took the pieces of a puzzle and smashed them together to make them fit. It felt like watching a bunch of stuff happen rather than witnessing a story unfold.
This was a problem. After watching the movie, I had a bad taste in my mouth. I was having trouble figuring out what I had watched. However, while trying to gain some perspective and thinking about it while the credits were rolling, it was all the little things that made the movie good. It wasn’t about the destination but the journey itself. The movie is able to bring out many emotions
from the audience. However, it feels like this is done effortlessly. Scenes aren’t overly dramatic; they play on similar incidents that people have had in their past. The movie works for different people in different ways which is a special kind of beautiful.
Ricardo Trogi did a fantastic job with 1981. It could have been made to feel more complete and well-rounded but, as it stands, is a fantastic movie. It really makes you think back to being a kid growing up and seeing the dynamics of your various relationships change and having to react to new surroundings. It’s a film that will make you sad but also make you smile.
This post was originally published on this site on March 15, 2010. The original review is intact with some minor grammatical changes and film stills were added for this revision.