“Les Câlins Cheaps (Cheap Hugs)”
Two strangers, reeling from the loss of their mutual friend, find themselves in an unexpected moment of connection on the streets of Montreal.
I first came upon the short play 'Les Câlins Cheaps' by French-Canadian playwright Annick Lefebvre when I directed an English version of it in 2018. I was struck by the simple yet layered story of two grieving women moving through ordinary days that feel anything but when viewed through the lens of loss. The recent suicide of their mutual friend has re-colored the details of their lives, turning their respective worlds upside down. What I strove to capture in the film adaptation is how the juxtaposition of their movements through the city reveals their response to the question of how to live with this hole in their heart. One woman’s openness to the pain counters the other’s avoidance, ultimately leading them towards an unexpected connection that stirs something more hopeful in both of their hearts. Although the original play is solely in French, I decided to make one character Anglophone (Jordan) and the other Francophone (Chloé). The character who committed suicide (Mathilde) was the bilingual connective tissue who moved between both language worlds. Montréal is a bilingual city and yet the communities are fairly segregated. I chose to lean into this tension, using its distinctive culture to gesture at separation at the beginning of the story, and connection at the end. Working on this film has been a constant reminder of the profound effects that can come from even the smallest moments of connection. And that embedded within grief, there can be a quiet awakening to life.