Film Review: ANGELIQUE’S ISLE (Canada 2018) ***

Angelique's Isle Poster
Angelique’s Isle is a harrowing tale of perseverance and survival that unfolds during the great copper rush of 1845, when newlyweds ANGELIQUE, a young Ojibway and CHARLIE, her voyageur … See full summary »


Michelle DerosierJames R. Stevens (based on novella “Angelique Abandoned”)

Premiering back in 2018 and screened for free at the ImagiNative Film Festival, ANGELIQUE’S ISLE, an entertaining indigenous story and period piece finally gets a commercial run.

The setting is 1845 during the copper rush.  Times are changing – retrospectively.  Fur trade is down and fur trappers have to search for an alternative for of living.  So faces the problems of Charlie Moss and his working buddies.  The film begins with Charlie’s marriage to an indigenous woman before an offered job which he takes on due to the hard times with his new wife in tow.

Angelique, a young Anishinaabe woman (Julia Jones), and her voyageur husband Charlie (Charlie Carricj) are abandoned on Lake Superior’s Isle Royale by a corrupt copper hunter (Aden Young).   Granny initially advises her not to go but Angelique replies: “He is my husband.”  The newlywed couple have been left with few provisions and as the winter sets in they begin to starve.   With Charlie beginning to demonstrate strange behaviour, Angelique – a devout Christian – struggles with her faith and must rely on the teachings she received from her grandmother (played by Tantoo Cardinal, who appears to be in every single indigenous film sees days) in order to survive the harsh winter.  Angelique’s Isle is a harrowing tale of perseverance and a testament to the resilience and strength of Indigenous women.   The story is based on the novella “Angelique Abandoned”, a true story of Angelique Mott. 

The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer, Celiana Cardenas.  The winter on Angelique’sIsle is indeed beautiful though harsh for human beings.  One look at the winter there and one immediately feels for the unfortunate couple who have been abandoned there.  The couple have nothing and no provisions. Angelique eats bark and when spring finally arrives, the wild berries she finds and grinds.  One thing that looks odd is the interior of their hut which looks too cosy to be real.  

The reason for Charlies’s descent into madness is never clear explained.  If he goes mental, why not Angelique?  Again, this is yet another film that testifies to the strength of the female.  One can also appreciate the love the couple for each other.  It is truly a wedding bond for better or for worse, which in this case is for the worse.

The suffering of the couples appreciated but is toned down several notches for the audience.  There are no nasty scenes of violence or suffering.  As such, ANGELIQUE’S ISLE comes across as a family film, with a little warning regarding certain scenes, but it is a handsomely mounted Canadian Indigenous tale of hardship and survival.

ANGELIQUE’S ISLE won 3 awards at the American Indian Film Festival.  It won for Best Picture, Best Actress (Julia Jones) and Best Supporting Actress (who else but Tantoo Cardinal?)



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