Few filmmakers have accomplished as much as Denis Villeneuve has in the 21st century. Worldwide, Villeneuve is known for directing several praised films, including thrillers Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), as well as the sci-fi films Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). For his work on Arrival, he got an Academy Award for Best Director. Furthermore, Villeneuve was granted the award of Director of the Decade by the Hollywood Critics Association in December 2019.
Villeneuve’s most recent film, Dune (2021) (an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel), debuted at the 78th Venice International Film Festival; the film got universal praise and was a significant accomplishment in the cinema world. It became his most elevated film to date. It procured him Academy Award designations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, with the actual film winning six Oscars at the 94th Academy Awards. As great as it is to know about Villeneuve’s accomplishments, all of it has a beginning, with his first feature film being August 32nd on Earth.
August 32nd on Earth – The Potential of a Director
The forte of the modern era is it allows us to analyze the history of an auteur. Dating back to 1998, no one could’ve predicted the potential of Villeneuve. His first film tells the story of photo model Simone (Pascale Bussières), who decides that having a baby with her best friend Philippe (Alexis Martin) is the sole method to give her life meaning.
A car accident dictates this massive shift in Simone’s life, seemingly making it flow into an odd plot that heavily relies on the two main characters. The film has a compelling way about it, combining a naturally thin plot with coen-brothers style dialogue and an early essence of Villeneuve’s direction. Though some would argue there isn’t much to say story-wise, it’s worthwhile if you’re a fan of Villeneuve. You see the early stages of the auteur’s obsession with mortality and human existence. It furthers the idea of what it means to be a person and the notion of living out of the ordinary. Simone is 26 and narrowly escaping death (entirely harmless for the most part), makes me ponder if her suddenly wanting a child is a more profound sense of Simone becoming immortal via lineage. Is having kids the closest thing to “living on” and having pieces of you continue? Who knows.
Differing Life Wants
The film’s biggest strength comes down to the characters of Simone and Philippe. Both characters are irresponsible relationship-wise and are fond of drinking, to say the least. Yet, both characters have remained friends for years and are in love with one another to a certain extent. The primary reason it hasn’t been happy ever after with Simone and Philippe comes down to what the characters want. Both are at different points in their (Simone being a model and Philippe already in a committed relationship). It has a tremendous cinematic feel, with editing choices that make it different from a typical rom-com. Whether it’s the character’s end goal of conception and sex, the two come across a dead body and countless other scenarios that delay their plans and its gut-wrenched ending.
In short, the film is about two characters that act like a couple who haven’t figured themselves out. Though set in reality, you see the early stages of Villeneuve’s embellishments to a film on a deeper level. So, do I recommend August 32nd on Earth? If you can find it (I watched it on a plane), it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re a fan of Villeneuve. Though it has flaws, it stands entirely on its own compared to other genres’ films. It’s an excellent arthouse self-realization romance flick ending and will stay with you for years.