TORONTO — It's easy to become jaded about our political leaders, says Quebec film star Patrick Huard.
So he's hoping his lighthearted comedy "My Internship in Canada" restores a bit of faith for Canadian voters worn down by lengthy electioneering.
The "Bon Cop Bad Cop" star plays an idealistic independent MP who finds himself holding the deciding vote on whether the country goes to war.
Beset by pressure from all sides — including his ambitious wife, pacifist daughter and a wide-eyed young intern from Haiti — he decides to consult his constituents directly.
Huard's earnest Steve Guibord just wants to do the right thing, but finds himself disillusioned by jingoism, glad-handing and shameless horse-trading.
"We sort of became cynical about politicians, I would say the last 15 or something years. We all see them as evil, as corrupted or with bad intentions and power junkies — and I don't think that's the case," Huard said while screening the film at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.
"I think most of them are just normal people trying to make a difference and realizing that the system is so big, the machine is huge and tough to steer, that the toll on them is bigger than they thought.... It's not easy and I wanted to show the human side of that job and maybe, I hope, give some hope back to the voters' mind."
It's a coincidence that this French-language feature hits select theatres around the time Canadians head to the polls, added Huard.
He said writer-director Philippe Falardeau began writing the story five years ago, not long before his acclaimed classroom drama "Monsieur Lazhar" began charming audiences and charting a path towards an eventual Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film.
Suzanne Clement co-stars as Steve's wife, while Quebec-born newcomer Irdens Exantus plays an enthusiastic Haitian intern who relays each of Steve's moves to his friends and family back home.
Clement said her character is a bit more savvy about what's at stake than her down-to-earth husband, a former hockey player who maintains an against-all-odds optimism in a series of community meetings that are clearly hijacked by interest groups.
"I wanted to push this side of her ... that was a little ambitious," said Clement, best known for her roles in the Xavier Dolan films "Mommy," "Laurence Anyways" and "I Killed My Mother."
She said working on the film was "like a lesson in Canadian politics."
"Oh man, there's so much stuff I didn't know or I hadn't taken the real value of it," said Clement.
"It also (offers) a different look at our precious democracy that we kind of maybe forget we have sometimes."
"My Internship in Canada" is already playing in Ottawa and Montreal and opens Friday in Toronto and Kingston, Ont. It heads to London, Ont., on Oct. 30; Waterloo, Ont., on Nov. 13; and Regina on Jan. 8.
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press