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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 15, No. 7 April 2010

Deborah Chow’s First Feature: A Love Letter to Montreal

by Crystal Chan / April 1, 2010

Flash version here.

There are plenty of film shoots in Montreal, but rarely does the city star as itself; usually it stands in for New York City or another American or European locale. Montreal finally takes centre stage in Deborah Chow’s first feature film. Instead of writing the script with specific actors in mind, Chow wrote The High Cost of Living for Montreal.

“I studied at McGill and then moved to New York [for an M.F.A in film at Columbia],” said the director-writer, who was born in Toronto. “But I knew that I would return for my first film. The point of departure for the story is the city. I had never seen a film that accurately represented the experience [in Montreal] that I had.” The city’s bilingual nature also shines through the inclusion of some French. “People speak French on the street, at the grocery store,” she explained. “The film depicts that social aspect but doesn’t propose any political agenda.” 

The High Cost of Living stars Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs), Isabelle Blais (Borderline, The Barbarian Invasions, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and Patrick Labbé (Mirador, Ma vie en cinémascope, Les Boys) and follows the aftermath of a hit-and-run car accident. Nathalie (Blais), eight months pregnant, loses her baby as a result of a crash with Henry (Braff). Nathalie meets Henry without knowing of his role in the accident and ironically latches on to him as a guardian angel figure, someone she can confide in and who can comfort her while her husband (Labbé) is too cold and unresponsive as he deals with the grief in his own way. Of course, the truth is bound to catch up to them.

“When I read the script I was very moved,” Braff said. “I had never seen anything like it before.” He felt it was one of the most emotional he had ever encountered. Blais agreed, “Right away I wanted to be a part of the project. The script is really fabulous.”

Chow received the inaugural Kodak New Vision Mentorship and had the privilege of working with Canadian auteur Patricia Rozema on the film, which is also funded by a Canada Council screenwriting grant. The completed film will probably appear at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

(c) La Scena Musicale