Though this is a long biopic at 130 minutes long you never feel it dragging. Though it certainly isn’t a film that young kids can sit through because of its length due to its lack of sex, drugs or graphic violence it is a film that can be enjoyed by most members of the family. The mix of drama and comedy helps and is done equally well.
The story is of Louis Cyr (Antoine Bertrand – Starbuck), accepted at the end of the 19th century as the world’s strongest man. At the end of that century Louis Cyr was a French-Canadian who worked as a labourer in a textile factory situated in Lowell, Massachusetts. His family had moved from Quebec to work there. Louis Cyr was born in 1863 in Napierville, but due to a lack of work his family moved to the U.S. An Irish promoter gets a hint of the man’s strength and so he convinces him to go on the road with different fairs earning money by amazing people with incredible feats of strength. His girlfriend Mélina Comtois (Rose-Maïté Erkoreka – Les Invasions Barbares) decides to go along with him on the road. He works about six months and it ends with the Irish promoter running off with all his money.
Not a man who is going to give up that easy, Louis continues touring on the road. He also marries Mélina, who has stuck with him through it all. Back in Montreal Louis meets Horace Barré (Guillaume Cyr – Nos Jours Heureux). Horace is also a strongman and sees Louis’s potential and begins to back him. He also meets Gustave Lambert (Gilbert Sicotte – Léolo, Mesrine: Killer Instinct), who becomes his manager. Now finally Louis has legit people behind him. With their help in Montreal Louis Cyr becomes a huge star. The Americans become interested in him and invite him to tour the U.S. showing his feats of strength. Buoyed by his success, now Louis has a goal – to become the strongest man in the world.
Part of the heritage of Quebec, Louis Cyr helped put the province on the map. He was so impressive that several of his strong man records still stand. Many Quebecers, especially Anglophones, know very little about this man and that is a shame. Watching this period piece does shed some light on who Louis Cyr was – a family man, a Montreal resident and a strongman.
Most important in a biopic is the actor you select to portray the main character. I’m sure many had doubts about Antoine Bertand as he was mostly known as a comedic actor. However, he does a fine job here as the strongman. He looks the part with a similar physique to Louis Cyr. Not only does he look like the man he is portraying, but brings plenty of emotion. He is up to the task of allowing us to see the man’s determination and vulnerability. We also can see the toll all the physical effort took on Louis Cyr.
Director Daniel Roby (Funkytown), a graduate of Concordia University as well as USC, has helped out the strong script by accurately recreating the period that Louis Cyr lived in. The hair, costumes and sets are all very authentic and allow you to seamlessly immerse yourself into the era. The music by the likes of Joranne also is a strong point. He has also successfully made a large amount of people interested in the life of a strongman; even those who probably have no interest in strongman feats. He wins us over because of how he invites us into the inner circle of the man and really allows us to get to know the human being rather than the public figure.
Louis Cyr is the type of coming from nothing/underdog story that we all like to watch. He was a self-made man who became famous and still remained grounded and a great father to his children.