saint jude (2000)

director: john l'ecuyer

liane balaban, nicholas campbell, raymond cloutier, kris lemche, bernie coulson

John L’Ecuyer’s film is a coming-of-age story that no parent will want to contemplate, never mind show their children.

Jude, played with luminous directness by Liane Balaban (last seen in New Waterford Girl), is a bright young thing living in the seedy world of Montreal’s street hustlers. In short order, she’s kicked out of her father’s house and on the run from a drug dealer. On the street, she undergoes what is conventionally called a “descent into hell”, though thanks to L’Ecuyer’s direction, and Heather O’Neill’s script, it's a fall lacking in either fear or regret.

L’Ecuyer lovingly depicts the world of junkies as tragic and noble, full of poetic utterances and characters like Clarence, the nervous pedophile, and Gabriel, part junkie, part fallen angel. It’s in the tradition of films like Drugstore Cowboy and Trainspotting -- romantic tales of youth walking into an inferno, victimized by corrupt adults and their own desperate hunger for sensation. It all sounds very good on paper, and looks lovely in a film like Saint Jude, especially with the benefit of such a fine cast, but it’s an awful lie.

Like most of these films, Saint Jude takes on the air of a fairy tale, mostly to allow Jude a chance for escape, improbable as it might seem. The reality, unfortunately, is a lot less pretty.