Annie St-Pierre creates a hauntingly cold and beautiful world in Like the Ones I Used to Know. Her short film explores a divorced father going to pick up his children from his former-in-laws house on Christmas Eve. Steve Laplante plays Denis, a single father, who evokes visceral empathy from the audience with ease. The true beauty of St-Pierre’s film lies within its simplicity. There are no dramatic plot twists or shocking revelations. The audiences simply follow Denis’ experience of picking up his children from his ex-wife.
Laplante’s skillful ability to envelope himself in the character of Denis as easily as putting on a coat is one of the many reasons audience members will be drawn to this film. It’s easy for characters such as Denis to arouse sympathy in viewers, but to bring about the feeling of true empathy is a challenge for even the most seasoned actors. Laplante achieves this empathy with ease. He embodies Denis’ desires perfectly; clearly wanting to spend Christmas Eve with his children but also wanting them to be happy on the holiday. Laplante skillfully balances Denis’ sadness with his paternal strength.
St-Pierre provides a window into the lives of a family navigating the complications of everyday life and familial struggles through the setting of a holiday that seemingly holds significance to all of the characters in this film. The cinematography utilises the visual reminders of the holiday season; bright lights, the warm glow of candles, snow on the ground, and the cozy conglomeration of sweaters, gifts under the tree, and logs on the fire.
Like the Ones I Used to Know captures the nostalgia of the holidays while broaching a realistic topic of familial conflict that many experience. St-Pierre has balanced the innocence and sentimentality of the holidays, with a raw look at how the season isn’t as painless and carefree for everyone as many movies and stories portray it to be.