TIFF 2023 | Ru (Charles-Olivier Michaud, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Saffron Maeve

Pulled from the pages of Kim Thúy’s award-winning novel of short reflections on family, refuge, and identity, Charles-Olivier Michaud’s Ru surveys an affluent Vietnamese family escaping to Quebec on the heels of the Fall of Saigon. Ru is mostly observed through the eyes of the family’s young daughter Nguyen An Tinh (Chloé Djandji), who is struggling with episodes of PTSD (poignantly photographed by cinematographer Jean-François Lord, who manages some of the most impressive framing this year) and acclimatizing to the province’s native language. The Nguyens, among other refugees, are met graciously by the locals, who bake casseroles and gift cardigans by the dozen. 

With this warmth and generosity comes also an overt familiarity and imposition; the kindest thing these people can offer is soft assimilation, an assurance that the refugees are, in fact, at home in Canada, that Canadiana is their access point to becoming understood. Thúy’s Ru is a tricky text to adapt, with its liquid, poetic method of storytelling. Consequently, Michaud excises much of the novel’s narrative: Tinh as an adult with two mixed-race children, and her relationship to Uncle Two—both plotlines meaty enough to feel as though something was misplaced in the act of adapting. While motherhood is no longer the axis of the story, Ru still retains its emotive cultural portraiture.