GenreDrama Budget3 million CAD WriterCarl Bessai LanguageEnglish
Release dateSeptember 6, 2003 (2003-09-06) (Toronto International Film Festival)
September 4, 2004 (2004-09-04) (Canada)
May 21, 2004 (2004-05-21) (United Kingdom) CastIan McKellen (Emile), Deborah Unger (Nadia), Tygh Runyan (Freddy), Chris William Martin (Carl), Ian Tracey (Tom), Janet Wright (Alice) Similar moviesThe Last Witch Hunter, Fish Tank, Factory Girl, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, At the Edge of the Abyss, Jupiter Ascending
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Emile is a Canadian film made in 2003 by Carl Bessai but not released widely until 2004. The cast included Ian McKellen and Deborah Kara Unger. The film received 2 Genie Award nominations for Best Achievement in Overall Sound and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Ian McKellen in 2005.
'Emile' is the third in a loose trilogy of films written and directed by Carl Bessai, all exploring aspects of personal identity. The first, 'Johnny', looked at a teenager with his life ahead of them, the second, 'Lola', portrayed a middle-aged woman trying to escape an abusive relationship, and 'Emile' is a Proustian examination of memory, imagination, regret, lost roots, and the possibility of redemption and reconciliation, all seen through the eyes of an old man whose life is almost over.
As a young man, Emile went to England on a university scholarship, leaving behind his brutal older brother Carl and his creative younger brother Freddy to run the family farm in Saskatchewan. Despite promising Freddy that he would return, Emile stayed in England and became an academic, turning his back on his Canadian past and even acquiring an English accent, while his brothers died one after the other in tragic circumstances: Freddy gassing himself with exhaust fumes in his pick-up; Carl dying in a crash in the same pick-up.
On his brief return (presumably for Carl's funeral) the authorities think he is there to adopt Carl's young daughter Nadia, but he abandons her simply saying "single parent families are not allowed on campus". All he is there to do is to resolve the family land-holdings.
Invited many decades later to receive an honorary degree by a Canadian university, the retired Emile decides to take an extended visit to Victoria, British Columbia to try to get to know Carl's now adult daughter Nadia (Deborah Kara Unger, who also briefly portrays Carl's wife) who has recently separated from her husband, and her ten-year-old daughter Maria (Theo Crane, who also portrays the ten-year-old Nadia) before it is too late. The discovery of his ancient typewriter amongst Nadia's belongings triggers a series of reveries, half memory, half fantasy, in which Emile's unresolved feelings about the past come back to haunt him.
Ian McKellen as Emile (all ages)
Deborah Kara Unger as adult Nadia and as Nadia's mother