Love and Human Remains
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 100 min
Max Films Productions Inc.
Denys Arcand made his English-language debut with this adaptation of Brad Fraser’s award-winning play "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love," which played in Toronto and New York to rave reviews and sold-out houses. Like Arcand’s 1986 success, Le Déclin de l’empire américain, this film is a portrait of contemporary life, but one generation younger. Love and Human Remains explores the lives and loves of a group of cynical twentysomething singles who are confronting the realities of big city life in the nineties, while trying to decipher their needs and desires.
The ensemble cast revolves around David (Thomas Gibson), a former-actor-turned-waiter who recently came out of the closet, much to the disappointment of his roommate Candy (Ruth Marshall), who is not-so-secretly in love with him. Not-so-secretly in love with Candy is Jerri (Joanne Vannicola), who continually tries to get Candy to explore her more adventurous side. David is pursuing Kane (Matthew Ferguson), a young busboy at his restaurant who may be attracted to David’s friend Benita (Mia Kirshner), a dominatrix moonlighting as a psychic. A serial killer, meanwhile, is thinning the city’s prostitute population, and David’s best friend Bernie (Cameron Bancroft) raises suspicions with his large collection of women’s earrings.
Marketed as a film about the lives of ‘Generation X,’ Love and Human Remains is ultimately about the confusion and insecurity of relationships – gay and straight – and the despair that creeps into life as romantic hopes fail to materialize. It also examines whether confronting loss and connecting with others necessarily leads to overcoming personal alienation and chaos.
The film met with largely negative reviews, which commonly labelled the film "lifeless" and expressed doubt in the fifty-two-year-old Arcand’s ability to understand and represent the concerns of the younger characters. However, Love and Human Remains was not without its supporters. Feeling the film was "hypnotic" and that it evoked "profound thoughts, not cheap thrills," Bruce Kirkland of the Toronto Sun described it as "one of those in-your-face films that emerges as undervalued and much misunderstood." Rob Salem, writing in the Toronto Star, noted the film’s "wickedly witty script" and praised it for being "the only ‘Generation X’ movie with something on its mind other than self-indulgence and wallowing in its own post-adolescent angst."
However, considering the talent involved and the production’s pedigree, it is difficult not to view the film as a disappointment. It was rejected from competition at the Festival de Cannes, where Arcand had previously enjoyed much success, and was a box-office failure. It was nominated for four Genie Awards, but won only for Adapted Screenplay (Fraser).
It is worth nothing that the film was set to become the first inter-provincial co-production until the Alberta funding agency backed out of the project, claiming there wasn’t enough involvement from Albertans. As a result, exteriors which were to be shot in Edmonton were filmed instead in Montreal, and the film’s setting was changed from Edmonton to an anonymous urban centre. This incensed Fraser, who had rejected offers from American and English-Canadian filmmakers in order to retain the original Edmonton setting of the play.