L’Affaire Dumont @ Les Rendez-Vous du Cinema Quebecois

laffaire dumontLiving in this country/province we take it for granted that the legal system is always going to work out correctly.  We believe that all bad guys will go to jail and that innocent people don’t have anything to worry about.  Every so often there are cases like that of Michel Dumont’s that serve to remind us that no system is ever perfect.  Sometimes innocent people go to jail and it is almost as if the system is working against them.

Daniel Grou-Podz’s (director of episodes of television’s 19-2) film is based on a true story.  A frightening true story.  It is hard to believe that everything went so wrong for Michel Dumont.  Most of it is a dramatic recreation of what happened though towards the end there is some actual news footage of Dumont following his release from prison after spending over 10 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

The police come to Michel Dumont’s (Marc-André Grondin – Goon, C.R.A.Z.Y.) apartment to take a Polaroid of him.  He is being accused of a crime.  A woman is saying that Dumont viciously raped her.  Dumont is innocent so he is not too worried, plus his lawyer tells him he has nothing to worry about.

In the meantime, Dumont goes about his life working as a delivery guy for Joly’s Grocery.  He also spends time with his two kids that he had with his ex, Céline (Sarianne Cormier – first film).  He is such a good guy that when Céline miscarries he and not her latest boyfriend brings her to the hospital the next day.

Much to his shock, Dumont is arrested by the police.  They try to get him to admit to the crime, but he won’t break.  The trial begins and the victim testifies of how Dumont sexually assaulted her.  Dumont goes to stay with his father until the trial starts.  Despite his innocence Michel Dumont is found guilty of all four charges against him.

He is released on an interim release until his appeal is heard.  Dumont starts attending a Single, Separated, Divorced support group.  He meets a woman named Solange (Marilyn Castonguay) and they start dating.  After a few dates Dumont reveals to her he’s been charged with rape and tells her he could not have done it as he is not physically able to have sex for a very long period due to an injury.  Solange believes him and decides to stay with him.

Dumont stays with Solange instead of turning himself in and they decide to fight against the guilty verdict.  Eventually someone rats him out and he is grabbed by the police.  While in prison Dumont is afraid that the other inmates will kill him now that they know what he’s in for.  While he is in prison he and Solange get married.

They continue to fight for his freedom.  He writes letters, takes psychological and physical tests, Solange sells all that she can to raise money, and they look for another lawyer.  There is no giving up.

For this film to work, even though we know that Michel Dumont was ultimately released, Marc-André Grondin had to turn in a likeable performance.  We had to feel incredibly sorry for Dumont for the film to be a success.  As the shy and genuinely nice Michel Dumont Grondin renders the character totally sympathetic and we suffer along with him every moment he is in jail.

What might turn some people off about the film is how serious it is.  Now, you might be scratching your head reading that thinking that there is no way that this story could be done any sort of justice if told in the slapstick comedy style.  That is not what I mean.  I mean, that this film could have done with a little levity to break up all that seriousness.  It would make it much more watchable.  This is not Grou-Podz’s style, though.  His films never have any superfluous moments or any fat to them.  His style is to be precise.  Sometimes it would have been nice to have some humour thrown in so as to better handle the heaviness of it all.

Besides all the injustice that Dumont has to go through what really struck me was the love that flourished under such difficult conditions between him and Solange.  She was a woman who really stood by her man and never stopped fighting for him.  The heartwarming love story is unfortunately overshadowed by everything else going on.  We never really get to revel in the whole love (and truth) winning out over immense hurdles.

A well told story that might be a tad too slow for people, but as you’re watching it and thinking of that think of how slow time passed for Michel Dumont while he was in prison for something he did not do.


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