Directed by Bernard Émond and released in 2003, 20h17 rue Darling, like Émond’s earlier film La femme qui boit, confronts us with the disastrous effects of alcoholism. From the perspective of its protagonist, Gérard, played by the ever-excellent Luc Picard, we witness a series of events (a shoelace coming untied, an alarm clock ringing) that may seem trivial, but that enable him to escape dying in a mysterious explosion that rocks his apartment building. Six other tenants die in the explosion, including Gérard’s neighbour, a four-year-old girl. A tormented soul, a failed journalist and an alcoholic, Gérard succumbs to a profound sense of guilt that prevents him from appreciating the fact that he is still alive. Instead, he becomes obsessed with his quest to find the reason for the explosion. Rather than presenting Gérard’s quest as a detective story, Émond focuses on the psychological deterioration of the sole survivor of this tragedy.
With the profound sensitivity so characteristic of this accomplished director, 20h17 rue Darling is a sombre film that immerses us in the ordinary lives of several characters, all but one of whom we know to be doomed. In the scenes depicting each of these tenants’ final moments, the actors (particularly Guylaine Tremblay) give brilliant, restrained performances that will leave a lasting emotional mark on viewers.
20h17 rue Darling won the Prix La Vague for Best Canadian Feature at the Festival international du film francophone in New Brunswick in 2003. For his touching performance, Luc Picard received the award for best performance by a male actor at the 2003 Festival international du film francophone in Namur, Belgium.