The Company Of Strangers Review

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A busload of women become stranded in an isolated part of the Canadian countryside. As they await rescue, they reflect on their lives


In a bus driven by Michelle, a lively black woman in her early 30s, seven women, previously strangers, meet on an outing in the Quebec countryside. Catherine, the youngest, is 69; Constance, the oldest is 88.

The bus breaks down and the elderly group finds refuge in a dilapidated house by a lake where they are forced to spend three days in primitive conditions and, Robinson Crusoe-like, to draw on their hidden resources in order to survive.

Thus herded together, the little band, which includes Mohawk Indian Alice (74), ex-Liverpool factory worker Winnie (77), American-born artist and writer Mary (71) and buttoned-up Londoner Beth (80), reveal the rich details of their past lives, swap stories, and learn to support each other with ingenuity, courage and humour.

Cynthia Scott's film — not to be confused with Paul Schrader's The Comfort Of Strangers — was heavily garlanded with praise on the major Festival circuit and offers 100 minutes of undiluted pleasure.

The exquisite landscape in which the delicate tale unfolds is magnificently photographed, and the women themselves are a constant source of revelation.

The construction is fictional, as is the screenplay, but the latter draws its material from real lives, and is played not by actors, but by the people concerned.

Only those with a psychological aversion to women, old people or life itself will be able to resist.

A timeless piece of magic, with an implicit underlying reminder that life is far from over when youth has gone.