The Necessities of Life ★★★½

Canada’s submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 2009 Academy Awards—it did not win—has a certain familiarity to it, but Bernard Émond’s screenplay is sufficiently strong and effective so as to ensure that the film does not feel clichéd. Benoît Pilon directs the movie with a delicate hand, allowing the engaging low-key story to unfold at a deliberate pace that slowly but surely draws the viewer into the drama. Interesting details about Inuit life are naturally integrated into the narrative of "The Necessities of Life".

One great scene shows Tiivii, with Kaki acting as a translator, telling a story about an invisible man; another involves a child playing string games. There are some moments of unexpected humor in the film; thankfully, they do not come across as contrived. The tragedy that occurs toward the end of the movie is genuinely affecting.

The film is competently lensed by cinematographer Michel La Veaux. Robert M. Lepage’s well-composed score goes hand in hand with the other elements of "The Necessities of Life".

The understated, solid performances by the cast make the viewer care about the characters. Natar Ungalaaq is outstanding in the role of Tiivii, and the friendship between his character and Kaki, sensitively played by Paul-André Brasseur, is very touching. Éveline Gélinas does a nice turn as Carole.