TIFF Next Wave Review: 'Fake Tattoos'

Fake Tattoos (Les faux tatouages)
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Pascale Plante
Starring: Anthony Therrien, Rose-Marie Perrault                            
Courtesy of TIFF
Fake Tattoos is the real deal. This raw and intimate film from Pascale Plante deserves to be in the spotlight. It’s easily the best feature dramatic debut from the Canadian circuit in 2017 and director Pascale Plante shows the most overall finesse in fusing the authenticity of style with storytelling. This rugged and easygoing love story is Once meets Nuit #1 for the indie rock crowd. It’s Sleeping Giant for people who came of age in grungy concerts or in their bedrooms listening to music on late summer nights instead of getting to bask in the sunlight of cottage country. Find love and lose it in the freeing summers of youth with this bittersweet number that pulses with passion, adrenaline, and pain.

Plante smartly keeps things to scale in this intimate boy-meets-girl production as Théo (Anthony Therrien) meets girl Meg (Rose-Marie Perrault), one night following a concert. It’s a perfectly casual, if direct, come-on. Théo’s in line buying a soda after the show and Meg spies his tats, sees an opportunity, and strikes up a conversation. Théo, a year younger than Meg, is as shy as she is forward, and Fake Tattoos instantly finds a natural groove as the two characters feel one another out.

The tragic note of the song doesn’t hold itself for the final verse, however. Théo decides to be open with Meg when she takes his standoffishness for rejection. He’s leaving in two weeks and doesn’t want to hurt her. In a casual, harmless response—and a great stroke that highlights the uncontrived ingenuity of the Plante’s screenplay—she laughs that his moving day matches the expiry date of her yogurt. It’s fate! Better to love and lose than to never love at all.

Like Jesse and Céline of the Before Trilogy, the swell singers of Once, or Clara and Nikolai of Nuit #1, Théo and Meg discover one another through intimate conversations and by sharing their passion for music, movies, and pop culture arcana. The film has an ear for the language and insouciance of adolescence, since there isn’t a false note to the dialogue or the frequently indifferent intonations with which the lovers mask their feelings.

Thierren (Corbo) and Perrault (Demons) grow into their characters’ skin as the film progresses. Théo is almost bashful in his hesitance and Thierren cautiously avoids making eye contact with his co-star. He gives the character a brooding, adolescent mysteriousness. Whenever movies give audiences 18-year-old boys being whisked to a girl’s bedroom on their birthday, they usually portray the lads as overeager hound dogs. Within Théo’s reticence to be intimate with Meg, however, Fake Tattoos shows its honesty since young adults also have feelings, insecurities, and anxieties when it comes to getting close to someone, particularly for the first time. It’s also refreshing to see a film create a respectful relationship that goes both ways between genders.

Plante thankfully lets Perrault transcend the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who often plays the muse in offbeat indie love stories. She’s equally revelatory in her performance that has a vibrant rugged energy that she wears as comfortably as Meg’s tattered punk-scene jeans. The energy and vitality in Meg’s character is like a flint that sets Théo alight, and as the fire grows as their screen chemistry develops, Fake Tattoos finds a relaxed and relatable love story that simply basks in the casual thrill of discovery that comes with first love.

The scope and style of the film is equally intimate with Plante shooting much of the scenes at closer range. Handheld shots afford documentary-like realism that jibes with the natural grove and language of the film. The soundtrack is especially effective with sparse music filling the silence through powerful song choices like Amélie Nault’s cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” giving Fake Tattoos a fresh, alternative voice to go against the grain of romantic movies. There just isn’t a hint of bullshit about it.

Fake Tattoos screens at TIFF Next Wave on Sunday, Feb. 18 and opens in Quebec on Feb. 16.