Review: Broken Waters

Last modified date

If a psychological drama manages to keep your nerves on edge throughout its duration, then you would know that it has done its job. ‘Broken Waters’ accomplishes just that.

It’s as riveting as it is haunting. Through a thought-provoking screenplay, engaging acting, and a evocative musical score, ‘Broken Waters’ (French title: ‘Brise glace’) is an immersive account on the shared struggles of trauma, healing, and being a woman.

In this bilingual historical and psychological drama set in 1983 Ottawa, we follow Dr. Marguerite LaFontaine, a Franco-Ontarian female doctor, and new at the male-driven psychiatric ward she works at. She is representative of the era and industry she is in – a time when psychiatry strives to prove itself as legitimate among major medical fields. At the same time, Dr. LaFontaine works to prove herself and her approach to psychotherapy. She is certain her goals will be reached through Isabelle: a new patient at the asylum with deep-seated trauma that has driven her into an obsession and delusion with motherhood. Dr. LaFontaine believes that Isabelle is the perfect case for proving the effectivity of her style of treatment.

The parallelism between two protagonists on opposite sides of a spectrum is brilliant at engaging viewers to their dynamics and chemistry from beginning to end. Dr. LaFontaine (played by Valérie Descheneaux) and Isabelle (played by director, producer, and co-writer Karolyne Natasha) grace us on-screen with a stellar performance that plunges us into their heads: into the circumstances that cause their internal turmoil.

Its vivid cinematography is also as alluring as it is chilling, using psychological and religious symbolism that hooks viewers onto the story. Joint by a screenplay that establishes clear conflict between the relationships of all characters, ‘Broken Waters’ is a journey that accounts not only the struggles of battling with mental demons but with womanhood – opposing misogynistic ideals on work, family, and romantic relationships. All of this is tied together with a musical score that stimulates an atmospheric experience for viewers.

Among 17 films, it is no surprise that ‘Broken Waters’ was considered by the Pan Canadian Selection Committee to be Canada’s representative in the International Film Award competition at the 95th Academy Awards. As the first Franco-Ontarian film set in the capital of Canada, ‘Broken Waters’ is deserving of being the feature film of this year’s Ottawa Canadian Film Festival.

More info & links:

Bernice De Gracia

Film Reviewer

One of Bernice’s fondest childhood memories is picking up a new DVD to watch with her parents every weekend. Since then, she always knew that she wanted to be a creative. Whether it be through the visual, literary, or performing arts, Bernice aspires to lead a career in storytelling. The ardor she has cultivated for film studies, in particular, earned her a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from De La Salle University in Manila, the Philippines. Bernice continues on her creative odyssey through pursuing a Scriptwriting certificate at Algonquin College. Yet amid the whirlwinds of adulting, she remains her inner child as an avid film lover.