West of Pluto

It had never occurred to me that I was unhappy in high school, but this 2009 SIFF selection certainly made me reexamine my life and times, because I recognized some of those icky moments that were captured in living color.

For the first half of "À l'ouest de Pluton," I was convinced it was a documentary about French-speaking high school students, complete with their angst, their drugs, their crushes and their cliques. The jerky hand-held camera techniques only added to that impression. By the time I realized this was a scripted movie, I was forced to re-think the skills displayed in the first half, in this true-to-life depiction of a group of Canadian teenagers and their families.

The realistic and funny vignettes of students making presentations in a class about their hobbies, passions and pastimes certainly had a documentary feel, and the young actors were flawlessly convincing. I loved the debate between two teenage girls about Quebec's place in the world and its relationship to France. (This takes place in Quebec, so it is in French with English subtitles.) The science project about Pluto includes that planet's recent decommissioning to non-planet status.

In my opinion, this would make a great after-school special. It doesn't quite measure up to a feature film, but it is expertly done, just the same.

Post Script: The 2009 SIFF judges didn't like this as much as I (sorta) did: It landed in the negative points column.