Prayer for a Lost Mitten (2020)

Rates: * * * 1/2

Why Did I Watch It? Recommended by fatiekitz, via the MIFF 2020 virtual platform

Cast, crew, etc


At the Montreal Transit Authority lost property office, a steady stream of punters comes looking for lost items. They are missing their bus passes, their glasses, their keys, their more idiosyncratic personal possessions; one woman is looking for her distinctive tuque (it fits her head perfectly), another for a pink binder covered in butterflies.

The film makers settle on a handful of these people, follow them home and talk to them about their lives. The discussions that follow digress quickly, moving from their misplaced objects onto something more fundamental: the nature of loss itself. What have these people lost that was truly significant to them? Some talk about failed relationships, absent loved ones, or terrible tragedies; their lost property is just the key to unlocking something deeper.

This is an unusual documentary. Its tone is quiet, conversational; it’s like falling into deep discourse with a bunch of people you just met. The subjects are remarkably frank when discussing their personal histories; I especially liked the woman with the missing tuque – a simple, but unique item – that makes her think about her one true love (she reminded me, in look and tone, of the downstairs neighbour in ‘Amelie’). Similarly effecting, the homeless man whose AIDS diagnosis derailed his life; thinking death was close he fell into alcoholism and drug addiction, then eventually outlived his partner, who did succumb to the disease. Now he lives with regret.

The film frames its stories with striking images of Montreal’s wintry, snow shrouded streets. This automatically adds to the intimacy; as the inhospitable exteriors give way to another cosy kitchen, or living room, you are glad to be inside, in good company. The technique also adds another aspect. There are many shots of people going about their business, either lining up at the lost and found, or hustling home through the snow. The point seems to be: everyone you see has a rich history, a life full of stories; the everyday is remarkable, if you take the time to notice.

The film is the same. It is meditative, and reflective, and probably not for every taste; but if you are attuned to its distinctive tone, a lot to enjoy.

Seen at MIFF 2020, via their digital platform.

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