Every review everywhere for the movie, “Mon Oncle Antoine” is a rave and I beg to differ. It lured me in with all those assurances that this was The Best Canadian Film of All Time (whatever that means).
The movie does start out promisingly with nostalgia drenched images of small-town community and warmth as Christmas comes to an asbestos mining town in “the country of Quebec” in the 1940’s. Elfish little Benoit lives with his Uncle Antoine and is helping ready his uncle’s general store for the holiday. The movie seemed to be shaping up as a charming little coming of age story with hints of villainous mine owners and a growing environmental disaster. Although the amount of liquor consumption in every direction turns out to have been a clue.
Then things go south in a startling and unsatisfying way when Benoit and Uncle Antoine head out into the bitter cold to collect the body of a recently deceased boy (Uncle Antoine is also the local undertaker). Suddenly Uncle Antoine is a disgusting drunk who greedily wolfs down a greasy pork meal at the home of the dead boy before unsteadily depositing the kid into the pine box. Back out in the teeth of a blizzard, Uncle Antoine slumps into his furs in a drunken stupor and Benoit is left to take the reigns and get them, the horse, and the dead boy back to town safely. By now it’s clear something is going to go very wrong and it does.
Unsatisfying, weirdly truncated, and littered with leads that go nowhere, “Mon Oncle Antoine” may be a classic of the Canadian cinema but it just made me impatient.