Being placed on leave from work, Alexandre (Robert Naylor) returns home to his quiet Canadian hometown. Soon, Alexandre becomes the center of an investigation into explicit drawings popping up around town.

What stuck out to me most about The Noise of Engines is how much it seems to pay tribute to films such as Hot Rod (2007), Napoleon Dynamite (2004), and other quirky, indie comedies. What makes those films resonate with their audience is their cut-and-dry, niche humor mixed with a strange timelessness that pulls on your nostalgia strings. The Noise of Engines has such a feeling and yet is the complete opposite of the aforementioned films.

Why I think this is, is because first time feature film writer and director Philippe Grégoire uses this film to tell a semi-autobiographical tale about his time working as a customs agent, paying for film school. Because of this, the parts in the film where Alexandre is interacting with and explaining all his town has to offer with drag racer Aðalbjörg (Tanja Björk), hit the mark with their humor and relatability. Everyone who has grown up in a small town can sympathize with Alexandre’s yearning to escape but attachment to stay. Using his personal experiences to fuel the film’s narrative was smart and helped ground the other more abstract part of the film.

Where this film faltered was in the edgier moments. Comparing Grégoire’s film with other indie comedies was a bit misleading in that he tries to play up the dramatic and darker elements of the script, ultimately making this a dramatic, dark comedy. Unfortunately, not all of these beats land and the portion of the film that focuses on the explicit drawings comes across as confusing and ultimately disjointed from the rest of the film. It’s unfortunate because there was an interesting idea here that was ultimately let down, convoluted storytelling. I very much would have wanted to know who was committed to Alexandre’s destruction, and I’m sure that answer is there. But its answer was buried so deep in the symbolism of the scenes that it was ultimately lost among the rest of the film.

Grégoire set out to make a film that helped expose a portion of his life that he had been hiding throughout his youth. Using Alexandre as his subject, he manages to do so with varied success. This film shines when it embraces its humor and quirks but dims when it tries to explore more of the darker and interesting elements introduced.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewed on October 11, 2021. Rating: TBC. Running time: 79 min. 

PRODUCTION: (Canada) A G11C production. Producers: Philippe Grégoire & Andrew Przybytkowski. Associate Producer: Gabriel Savaria

CREW: Director/Writer: Philippe Grégoire. Editing: Kyril Dubé. Music: Joël-Aimé Beauchamp. Cinematography: Shawn Pavlin.

CAST: Robert Naylor, Alexandrine Agostini, Marc Beaupré, Tanja Björk, Arnmundur Ernst Björnsson, Huguette Chevalier, Patrice Dussault, Marie-Thérèse Fortin, Maxime Genois & Ingi Hrafn Hilmarsson.

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