TIFF 2023 | Mountains (Monica Sorelle, US) — Centrepiece

By Will Sloan

 Failure and frustration are a spectrum, not a binary. Xavier (Atibon Nazaire), a Haitian immigrant in Miami, has worked hard and faithfully for a Miami construction company for many years, and his efforts have rewarded him with a small house in the Little Haiti neighbourhood. There, with his seamstress wife Esperance (Sheila Anozier), he has raised a grown son, Junior (Chris Renois), who lives at home. Xavier, deep into middle age, has begun entertaining the idea of moving to the kind of slightly larger home that a man who has worked so long ought to have earned by now. But even this modest dream is increasingly out of reach, as Xavier now finds himself tasked with demolishing local homes that will be rebuilt as McMansions for gentrifiers.

Xavier’s personal frustrations are compounded by his tense relationship with his son. A college drop-out pursuing a stand-up comedy career, his imagined trajectory exists outside the more practical ambitions of his father. Director and co-writer Monica Sorelle knows that class mobility is seldom won through hard work, and that Xavier is doomed to be a blameless cog in his own obsolescence, but it’s an open question to what extent Junior’s dreams are as pie-in-the-sky as his father’s. Unlike a lot of movies about the travails of the working class, this one doesn’t render the characters and their settings with dreary porridge tones: the bright and crisp digital photography emphasizes the sunniness of Miami and brings out the warm hues of Esperance’s fabrics that line the family home. The Little Haiti of Mountains is a pleasant-enough place to live; the problem is that it’s not getting any more pleasant.