Set Me Free (1999 film)

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Set Me Free
Emporte-Moi (1999 film).jpg
Film poster
Directed by Léa Pool
Produced by Louis Laverdière
Written by Léa Pool
Nancy Huston
Isabelle Raynault
Starring Karine Vanasse
Pascale Bussières
Miki Manojlovic
Alexandre Mérineau
Charlotte Christeler
Nancy Huston
Music by Robyn Schulkowsky
Cinematography Jeanne Lapoirie
Edited by Michel Arcand
Distributed by Artistic License Films
Release date
  • 12 February 1999 (1999-02-12)
Running time
94 minutes
Country Canada
Language French

Set Me Free (French: Emporte-moi) is a 1999 French-Canadian film by Léa Pool and starring Karine Vanasse. It tells the story of Hanna, a girl struggling with her sexuality and the depression of both her parents as she goes through puberty in Quebec in 1963. The film heavily references the French new-wave film Vivre sa vie (It's my life) by Jean-Luc Godard.

The film won critical acclaim and several awards, both for Pool and Vanasse, including being named the year's best Canadian feature by the Toronto Film Critics Association.


Hanna is living on a farm with her grandparents and mentally handicapped uncle when she gets her first period. The onset of puberty (and her grandmother's relatively non-supportive explanation of it) trigger her decision to return to her parents in Montreal.

Returning to the city, Hanna resumes her relationships with her depressive mother, her erratic father and her brother, who is understandably usually absent from home. Hanna's mother, a fashion designer, has put aside all of her artistic dreams in favour of devoting all her time to supporting Hanna's father, an unpublished writer she believes to be a genius. Hanna's father, distant and erratic, gets a job working for a newspaper, but soon quits, and spends all day playing chess in a café while his wife thinks he is at work.

Hanna is fascinated with Anna Karina's character in the Jean-Luc Godard film "Vivre sa vie" and spends much of her time watching the film and practicing mimicking her cool detachment. She also begins to be aware of her sexuality, developing a crush on a female teacher, and kissing another girl, Laura, at a school dance.

Hanna's mother attempts suicide, and while she is recovering, Hanna is sent to get a loaf of bread by her father. The baker gropes her; then gives her money.

Hanna attempts to set Laura up with Paul; however, it is clear that the inclusion of the boy is a pretense meant to somehow undercut the implications of her attraction to Laura. This culminates in a game of Spin the bottle between the three.

Hanna decides to experiment with being a prostitute, like her idol Anna Karina, but at the last moment changes her mind. However, her john refuses to let her back out, and forces himself on her.

As the school year ends, Hannah's mother returns to her family, and Hannah finds a new way to express herself and cope with the world using a film camera lent to her by her teacher.


Emporte-Moi was well received by critics, and was given an average rating of 8/10 by reviewers.[1][2] Critics generally praised the film's bittersweet tone and the performances, particularly that of Vanasse. Still, some, such as Roger Ebert, criticised the film's ending for seeming somewhat forced.[3]

Emporte-Moi, released in the United States on a single screen, grossed $74,052 at the box-office.[4]


Emporte-Moi received various awards. Pool earned Genie nominations for best director and best screenplay, and the film was awarded the Toronto Film Critics Association Award for best Canadian film of 1999. At the Toronto International Film Festival, Emporte-moi was awarded the Special Jury Citation for Best Canadian Feature Film, and Vanasse earned the Special Jury Congratulation for her work on the film. It also received four Jutra awards, for best actress (Vanasse), supporting actress (Bussières), direction, and art direction, and was nominated in four other categories.

Internationally, the film received the Swiss Film Prize and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.[5] It was also honoured at international film festivals in the United States, Italy, Belgium, Bosnia, and Spain.[6]


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