Family is a broad theme in Rhayne Vermette’s Ste. Anne, one that it explores through eyes feeling alienation. Of eyes that see something for the first time. The family in this film receives news that someone found one of their members, Renee (Vermette), and it chronicles that group’s reaction to having her back in the film. It is a film of gatherings, of eavesdropping into conversations, of arguments about shifting power dynamics. Those dynamics specifically change keeping in mind that Renee has a daughter, Athene (Isabelle d’Eschambault).
The film’s digressions might not be for everyone, but its power is undeniable when it follows Renee around. It captures her and the different environments she enters through 16mm, depicting what it’s like had Baroque painters discovered neon colors. It also has its share of still lives of moments that one might only be able to experience in Treaty 1 territory, a land that covers what settlers call Winnipeg and rural Manitoba. That land is where Renee’s relationship with Athene grows.
Vermette’s techniques might also not be for everyone. The distance and the metaphorical walls she builds between the camera and her landscapes might frustrate some viewers. It takes a while to connect some of her threads. which is saying a lot for a feature that’s under 90 minutes. Some of her painterly references work but the more cynical of us might say others. But credit is due to someone who can make us feel the weight of everything she shows on our screens.