Boris Without Beatrice (2016)

A filthy rich, cold-hearted and adulterous man hopes that his melancholia-stricken wife will recover as Cote’s intriguing work asks what it means to search one’s own soul.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,541

Dir. Denis Cote
2016 | Canada | Drama | 93 min | 1.85:1 | French, English & Russian
Not rated – likely to be at least NC16 for coarse language and some sexual scenes

Cast: James Hyndman, Simone-Elise Girard, Denis Lavant
Plot: The life of wealthy businessman Boris takes a turn when his wife Béatrice, a high-profile politician, falls into a deep depression. 
Awards: Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlinale)
International Sales: Films Boutique

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Soul-Searching; Depression; Husband & Wife
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

While some critics have criticised Denis Cote for being too direct and literal in his treatment of Boris Without Beatrice, I personally think that this is one of the Canadian auteur’s better works.  Except for its somewhat tepid closing scene, the film is a good example of how narrative intrigue can be produced from what seems like an ordinary concept. 

Here, Boris, an adulterous man who is a contender for the most cold-hearted person on Earth, prays that his silent melancholia-stricken wife, Beatrice, will recover sooner rather than later. 

After a surreal encounter with an old man (an indelible cameo by Denis Lavant), who may or may not be God, Boris is told to change his ways if he wishes to see his wife become well again. Being filthy rich and full of self-pride, Boris finds that that is the hardest thing to do. 

“Why do you feel like you’re less equal than everyone else?”

Under Cote’s hands, Boris Without Beatrice becomes more than just its premise of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’.  It is a film about what it means to search for one’s own soul, to exist in a morally empty shell… and yet still not do a thing to rectify the situation. 

Cote also brings in a good measure of politics in a scene where the Canadian Prime Minister (played by the infamous taboo-breaking director Bruce LaBruce) visits Beatrice (a minister herself), and an early scene featuring a fiery encounter between Boris and the local municipality. 

Whether intended or not, Cote appears to channel some of his anger toward the Canadian government through thinly-veiled dialogue and his lead character’s detestation of authority. 

Grade: B+


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