by Rachel Willis
A man searching for his way in life is the subject of director Patricia Chica’s character study, Montreal Girls.
Though he arrives in Montreal to enroll in a pre-med program, it’s immediately clear that medicine is not a path Ramy (Hakim Brahimi) has chosen for himself. It’s an honor to study medicine at the university to which he has been accepted, but Ramy’s true passion is poetry.
Chica sets up a nice familial relationship for Ramy, establishing early that he is close with both his uncle (Manuel Tadros) and cousin, Tamer (Jade Hassouné). Tamer – a singer in a local punk band – introduces Ramy to the two women who will occupy most of his time in Montreal – Desiree (Jasmina Parent) and Yaz (Sana Asad).
Most of the film follows Ramy as he gets to know the women, all while reflecting on the last moments he spent with his mother before leaving for university. Her passing has had a profound impact on Ramy, and this is perhaps why he tries to cling so hard to the elusive Yaz.
While Desiree is more accessible, Ramy struggles to find his way with both women. It’s a mirror for the ways he struggles with his choice to study medicine. One offers safety and security; the other, passion and uncertainty.
While on the surface, it seems the Montreal girls are the driving influence behind Ramy’s choices, everything he does comes back around to the mother he has lost. Through brief scenes, we can sense the intimate relationship between Mother and Son.
At times, the film falls victim to clichés, but tenderness adds a layer of sincerity to those clichés. The film never feels trite, even while it treads familiar ground.
While most of the characters come to life, Yaz is relatively flat. Though this is how the character wants it – the persona she has created for herself – we never feel connected to her in a meaningful way. But this is part of the lesson Ramy learns as he navigates his new life. There are some people who will inspire you, even while they remain elusive. While this works to deepen Ramy’s character, it does leave a little to be desired for the audience.
Most of what the film does works to serve its purpose. The few moments where it stumbles almost feel necessary as it accurately reflects Ramy’s world.