Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Pascale Bussières, Alexis Martin, Paule Baillargeon, Emmanuel Bilodeau, R. Craig Costin
Finding meaning in life comes down to the individual and what they value. For some, it derives from having good friendships and for others it may be having plenty of books to read. For our protagonist, it happens to be having a baby, as an incident allowed her to look at her life to reexamine priorities.
After a highway mishap, Simone (Pascale Bussières) wants to have a child and asks her best friend Phillippe (Alexis Martin) to help her conceive it. It sets up an interesting situation for Phillippe as he currently has a girlfriend, but he still decides to take Simone up on her offer on the condition that they do it in the middle of the desert. This prompts them both to head to the closest desert from Montreal, which surprisingly takes them to Salt Lake City, Utah.
The premise and story for August 32nd on Earth can leave someone scratching their head, especially when it gets to the second half of the film. The relationship between Simone and Phillippe defines and helps the story work overall in order to build connectivity within an odd plot. It comes from their demeanor and how they react to this decision and the journey that follows it. Simone survives a bad car accident and now has a laser focus on conceiving while Phillippe takes everything in stride and comically reacts to everything going on.
Phillippe struggles with the decision to help because he has a girlfriend, but he also gets the opportunity to have sex with someone he has feelings for with no strings attached. He ultimately makes the decision to go with her but they must do it in such a secluded area like the middle desert. As you might be thinking with me, the desert does not seem like the best place to procreate. Something about the arid environment does not scream that it would be ideal for that kind of activity, which may contribute to what occurs later in the film. The set up builds something that seems out of this world and the experiences that happen next follow suit with that perception.
The effort may be better than the story overall, but it also serves as the feature directorial debut of my favorite contemporary director, Denis Villeneuve. You can see the seeds of the greater work he would later accomplish in his career, but it does feel rather slight at times. It does look wonderful visually when they get to Salt Lake City. The Philippe and Simone make the request to be driven to the middle of the desert. Something a cab driver expects to make a good nickel from. The desert feels so bare and lifeless, which holds its own symbolic meaning in the story. The way it looks makes the atmosphere feel so grand and shows just how small the humans are in comparison. It leaves them with much to ponder as they set to make such a large decision through such a personal act.
The final third may leave much to be desired, but the story feels fully realized and concludes in a way that makes it feel complete. August 32nd on Earth provides interesting characters put together into a compelling situation that shows their true values by the end. It helps establish Denis Villeneuve for all of the fascinating and spectacular films that would raise him to critical acclaim.