Like The Ones I Used to Know

A divorced dad has an awkward Christmas Eve at his former in-laws’ house, where even his kids make him feel out of place.

‘Les Grandes Claques (Like The Ones I Used to Know)’ wonderfully recreates the spirit of the 1980s Canadian Christmas. With the legendary regional family parties, large buffets of typical Québecois food and the must have wooden walls. The design team took meticulous care of the decor, posing tapestry and old rugs everywhere in the shooting location, but also dressing the characters in the iconic tones and styles of the era. The ambiance gave the story a warm home, with director Annie St. Pierre swiftly crafting a heart-breaking narrative amidst the joys and cheers surrounding. A film that certainly hits home to thousands of children of divorced parents, and the aching pains of having to split the parties. Annie told us a little more on the film and where the inspirations came from:

Where did your in- spiration for “Like the Ones I Used To Know” come from?

Hum. Good question…

Do all the other filmmakers know precisely what inspired them for a movie? I think for me it’s always a mix of a lot of things: questions, unconscious images, memories, seasons… Many years ago, I was approached to write a Christmas movie in a collective and even if it was never made, I stayed with the idea that my Christmas eves have often been very different than the ones of my cousins, whose parents were not divorced. It was often the opposite of the naive magic that the greeting season wants to sells us. Those moments deeply changed my childhood and forced me to evolve faster. Which I don’t think is necessarily bad… Well, I’m always interested in moments of transition in life, humiliation, mixed feelings… soft cruelty of ordinary life.

How flexible are you with your script, do you prefer to stick to what was planned or do you allow yourself to go in surprising or new directions?

I directed three feature documentaries before this fi lm so my worst fear isn’t to face something different than what I’ve planned, but to shoot something perfectly planned that sounds false. I will always embrace surprise on a set.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently on “Like the Ones I Used To Know”?

Yes! For sure! Scenes that we didn’t have the time to shoot, mostly. But this little room is closed in my mind and I think much more about what I’ll do on my next shoot.

How much has your background in documentary filmmaking helped prepare you for making your fictional short films?

Documentary is a very complex genre of cinema, ‘cause everything is related to the capacity of welcoming: people, time you’ll be able to dispose, places, noises, what will be said, what will happen… You are always writing with the present moment. You must be curious at every second and stay open and sensitive to the best place to put the camera in a wink. For sure, all those reflex helps in every shoot… and even more so in a short fi lm context with such a small amount of time. You have the experience of prioritizing what’s real.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from “Like the Ones I Used To Know”?

I hope they will stay with this feeling of duality in their minds: was it funny or was it terribly sad? Did I feel more like the kid or the adult in the story? Do family ties bind us to each other’s suffering or do they force us to develop empathy and evolve? This is one of the things that interest me the most in storytelling: creating a universe where nothing is completely black or white, where you can explore many emotions with a small ordinary event. I love when reflections on human nature arise from a primarily sensory cinematic language. I also hope the fi lm will give them a moment with both their inner child and their adult humiliated part (don’t we all have one?) and feel empathy for them. I would also like that they take away from this film the idea that family is made with ties that force us to experience a lot of emotions, sometimes that we wouldn’t like, but which also force us to evolve. This year, specially, I hope that the film will also give people just the feeling of family Christmas parties (for the good and the bad!) that we are deprived for.