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Review: Nulle Trace (2020)

Nulle Trace Review


Set in a dystopian not-too-distant future, Nulle Trace focuses on a nameless woman, who spends her days smuggling stuff in her handcar on the train trails of a wild land. During a trip, she encounters a young woman refugee with her baby and agrees to safely carry them across the border, delivering them to the young woman’s husband, who is patiently waiting on the other side. But their paths would soon cross again, after N (the nameless woman) gets her handcar stolen by some mongrels and takes refuge in the nearby woods. She soon finds the young woman again, beaten up and almost dead on a river bed, without her baby and her husband around. After knowing the harsh truth of what happened, N starts taking care of this young woman as she gathers her strength.

Nulle Trace Review
Nulle Trace (Monique Gousselin) – Photo credit: Matthieu Brouillard

Without delivering any more spoilers, Nulle Trace is the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival opener, directed by Simon Lavoie. It’s a particularly curious film in many ways, as the artistic liberties of the director create a harrowing portrayal of a place that has lost its humanity. Nulle Trace is a mysterious, cruel and engaging look at two opposite characters that get entangled in surviving on a harsh environment. The amount of detail that Lavoie’s camera absorbs, as well as the unique filming style in black and white, with wide angles of the sets and close-ups on the characters, create an artistic piece that will be remembered for years to come. The amazing cinematography, carried by talented Simran Dewan, is without a doubt the most immersive part of Nulle Trace. This collision of talent makes this Quebecer gem an award deserving masterpiece, and its leading ladies do not fall behind.

Lead by heavy looking Monique Gosselin, Nulle Trace creates a different type of heroine, one that embodies a subtle noir persona and another of a woman that stumbles into her opportunity of redemption but, at the same time, never truly sees it in that particular way. It’s such a rich character and Gosselin manages to capture our attention with her flawed intentions and mysterious dwellings. At her side is Nathalie Doummar, the young woman carrying her adorable baby and searching for a safe place to hide. She is frail looking, tarnished by a troubled past we can only imagine through her sad and weeping eyes. Although the film does not explain the context in which these women find themselves into, it leaves room for our imagination to create a scenario for them. It may not be direct in its approach, but the characters themselves speak more by their actions than with their actual words. Being able to concoct such a rich environment for the main characters to thrive, Nulle Trace is probably one of those rare cases where a film defies the audience to try and imagine an entire background for them.

It’s provocative, original, refreshing filmmaking, with a careful eye for detail, even if it takes some time for the viewer to get used to. Nulle Trace is clearly influenced by religion and how it seems to be something long forgotten in this cruel land dominated by vicious military troups and lawless rebels. These two characters find themselves inbetween a war that sucks them in, even with all their attempts to avoid it. Broken, hopeless, both N and her companion are the last ones standing and their survival will only matter if they stick to one another past their clear differences. Two women from different backgrounds and with different beliefs that need to find common ground in order to survive.

Nulle Trace Review
Nulle Trace (Monique Gosselin & Nathalie Doummar) – Photo credit: Juan Carlos Garcia

Nulle Trace may well be one of the first films of this present 2021 that has award season written all over it, not only by its unique features as a technical and artistic achievement, but also because of the depth in which it explores its main leading ladies and the dramatic intensity it injects in its ambiance. As the images speak for themselves and dialogues are scarce, Nulle Trace is a survival tale that hopefully opens up a new chapter for the genre and should be rewarded for its talented group of creative minds.

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Title: Nulle Trace

Director: Simon Lavoie

Cast: Monique Gosselin, Nathalie Doummar.

Duration: 105 min.

Trailer | Nulle Trace