In any given year, dozens of films that put Montreal in the spotlight are released.
Some are local productions, homegrown cinema that tells stories about Montreal, while others are major productions from abroad where Montreal often plays other cities like New York, Paris and London.
This year, Montreal was the stand-in for New York in two blockbusters: the embarrassing Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and the better-than-expected Scream VI.
For those among us who are passionate about the city but also about cinema, it’s the time of year to catch up on films to make up our end-of-year lists. Wading through the many Quebec releases and the mostly forgettable Blockbuster extravaganzas, what movies putting Montreal in the spotlight rose to the top?
LET'S GET INTO IT:
Beau is Afraid
2023 ‧ Horror/Comedy
Ari Aster’s epic follow-up to Midsommar follows a paranoid young man trying to get home to his mother. A strange, phantasmagorical adventure, the movie stars a balding Joaquin Phoenix as the mealy-mouthed Beau. Primarily shot in Montreal, the film’s first section puts Montreal’s crumbling infrastructure into stark focus as it paints a hellish and unnamed central cityscape haunted by despairing and desperate people who make Beau’s existence a living nightmare. Abrasive, disgusting and dark, Beau is Afraid won’t please all viewers but will likely resonate with people with an absurdist and pitch-black sense of humour.
2023 ‧ Drama
One of Quebec Cinema’s most prolific and divisive filmmakers, Denis Côté’s Mademoiselle Kenopsia feels like one of his most personal films. Shot in the liminal space of an abandoned hospital, the film follows its lonely and peculiar resident (played by the iconic Larissa Corriveau), who spends long days on the phone and wandering its halls. As the film premiered at TIFF, Côté was recovering from a kidney transplant that likely saved his life. The film captures a sense of waiting and uncertainty with a humorous ray of hope. While it leans heavily into the tropes of slow cinema, the movie is funny and quite moving if you give yourself over to its meditative charms.
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person
2023 ‧ Horror/Drama
One of the year’s most charming feature debuts, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person is a dark comedy about a young vampire who can’t bring herself to kill humans. She decides to enlist a suicidal young man to be her first victim, but before she can take his life, she decides to help him complete his bucket list. Surprisingly sweet and consistently inventive, the film cements young actress Sara Montpetit as a star to watch. For young people, this film is as defining as Ginger Snaps or The Craft for goth girls looking for a new obsession. While shot mainly in the suburbs, the film is still unmistakably Montreal in texture.
Irlande cahier bleu
2023 ‧ Drama
Perhaps the most poetic film ever made about basketball, Olivier Godin’s Irlande cahier bleu has a deep sense of play. Godin’s sense of rhythm flows through all aspects of the film: its prosaic dialogue, mysterious images and intuitive dream logic. While it’s best to go in not expecting a straightforward narrative, the film ostensibly follows a single father, Ducarmel (Emery Habwineza), as he works through fatherhood, firefighting, basketball, poetry and mental health. It is a film that showcases Montreal in summer and winter, using limited means to create a vision of the city between sleeping and waking life.
Red Rooms (Les chambres rouges)
2023 ‧ Thriller
A tech-thriller with a homegrown touch, Red Rooms takes place in Montreal’s Palais de Justice, as a serial killer who recorded and uploaded his murders to the dark web stands trial. Two young women watch the trial from the sidelines, rapt with attention, but who are these girls? Inspired by so-called killer “groupies,” Red Rooms is a dark thriller that delves deep into our true crime obsession. Director Pascal Plante creates a singular and haunting experience that leaves its most horrific elements up to the viewer’s imagination. It is an incredible showcase of the sterile condos propping up along the city and the dark alleyways of Old Montreal.
2023 ‧ Horror/Mystery
The best and possibly the last of the new Scream revival (star Melissa Barrera was dropped after being falsely accused of antisemitism, Jenny Ortega’s departure was announced shortly after), Scream VI found its 21st-century groove after a few near misses. The first film was set in the big city, Montreal’s west end, which stood in for New York City. People growing up in NDG or who went to McGill will easily recognize our hometown. While not necessarily on the same level as the first film, Scream VI is fun, clever, and finds a way to modernize the slasher film for a new world.
Simple Comme Sylvain (The Nature of Love)
2023 ‧ Romance/Comedy
While primarily set in the Laurentians, Simple Comme Sylvain evokes a certain mid-30s ennui best expressed by a desire to escape the city (and possibly your marriage) and fall in love with the country. This adulterous romance directed by Monia Chokri similarly hinges on the rural and urban divide, as Sophia (Magalie Lépine Blondeau) begins to realize that her passionate sexual affair with simple country boy Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) might not be so easy once the ice starts to thaw. Simple Comme Sylvain is a funny, sex and provocative adult drama that captures the chaotic uncertainty of love.
2023 ‧ Romance/Drama
If there was any doubt that Théodore Pellerin was a star, his incredibly nuanced performance in Solo would convert non-believers. Set in Montreal’s drag scene, Solo follows Simon as he balances his art, romance and family life. The film features incredible drag performances and a queer story that transcends many of the tropes of queer storytelling. Pellerin holds the film together as he plays the larger-than-life but sensitive Simon with incredible delicacy and specificity. He grabs your eye like few modern performers can, finding as much beauty in silence as he does in words and action.