Set Me Free



Set Me Free is a good example of a movie which most American studios will never make. It is thoughtful, tender and insightful, unlike most other American coming-of-age stories. Instead of focusing on getting laid or winning the big game, or other superficial issues, writer/director Lea Pool (Straight from the Heart, Desire in Motion) focuses completely on the inner turmoil of a young girl and its effect upon her life. Who would have thought that such a movie could arrive from Canada? Just kidding. Set Me Free is also a good possibility for Canada's entry in the Best Foreign Picture for the 2001 Academy Awards, which certainly says something since the cutoff date is not for over half a year.

The girl in question is Hanna (Karine Vanasse), a young girl growing up in Montreal. Her father (Miki Manojlovic, Black Cat, White Cat, Cabaret Balkan) is Jewish and her mother (Pascale Bussieres, The Five Senses, Memories Unlocked) is Catholic. At school, her peers mock her for her mixed heritage. Her father is also unemployed and moody, and her mother is overworked to the point of exhaustion. At home, she receives no attention, although she desperately craves the lover of her mother. Her brother and a friend do provide some comfort, but even their love may not be enough for Hanna.

Hanna's only solace is her favorite movie, Jean-Luc Goddard's Vivre Sa Vie (My Life to Live), which she watches repeatedly. She idolizes Anna Karina's character, who also resembles her teacher, one of the few people who cares for Hanna. Karina proclaims that everything that happens to someone is their own responsibility. Hanna takes this to heart, and this wreaks further havoc upon her life. Karina's character meets an untimely demise at the end of the movie, something that seems almost inevitable for Hanna, whose life begins to parallel that of Karina. The movie teaches her about friendship, love, and alienation, all of which she experiences in her personal life.

Vanasse gives a moving performance as Hanna. She feels alienated from everyone she knows, and confused about life in general. Set Me Free is Hanna's journey of discovery. She feels that she is responsible for her life, and it is up to her to make things right. Hanna herself is the catalyst that will determine whether or not she does follow Karina's character into death. Ultimately, Set Me Free is not that satisfying. It does have a realistic conclusion, but Pool wraps the third act in odd symbolism and imagery not easily explainable.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, French with English subtitles, Not Rated, but contains adult themes, would probably be PG-13.

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