The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (film)

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The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches
Little Girl Too Fond of Matches film poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed bySimon Lavoie[1]
Produced byMarcel Giroux
Screenplay bySimon Lavoie
Based onThe Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches
by Gaétan Soucy
CinematographyNicolas Canniccioni
GPA Films[2]
Distributed byLes Films Séville[2]
Release date
  • September 11, 2017 (2017-09-11) (TIFF[2])
  • November 3, 2017 (2017-11-03) (Quebec[3])
Running time
111 minutes[2]

The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (French: La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes) is a 2017 Canadian drama film directed by Simon Lavoie and starring Marine Johnson, Antoine L'Écuyer and Jean-François Casabonne. An adaptation of Gaétan Soucy's novel of the same name, the film centres on Alice Soissons (Marine Johnson), a girl raised to believe she is a boy, who lives in with her father and brother in oppressive and secluded conditions. When her father dies, she ventures into the village, where outsiders tell her she is female, and she fears the family home is now under threat.

The adaptation was filmed in Montreal, Quebec and the Laurentides and shot in black and white. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was nominated for seven Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Motion Picture.


In rural 1930s Quebec, Alice lives in house with older brother, known only as Frère, and their father Mr. Soissons, a recluse who is feared and hated in the village. Armed with rifles, Soissons and Frère forbid anyone from entering their property. Soissons has raised Alice as a boy, cutting her hair short and breast binding her, and tells her she is a boy whose penis fell off when she was small. Soissons also tells his children he created them out of clay. As Alice has doubts as to these stories, Frère finds her outside of the house reading a book, the memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon, that Soissons has banned. Frère rapes her. Later, Alice finds Soissons in the shed, where he is feeding pieces of food to a mysterious person in chains; Soissons describes this as a "just punishment," the figure being known as Juste. At night, Mr. Soissons enters his children's bedroom and inspects Alice, discovering she is pregnant. He begins beating Frère, whom he realizes has impregnated her, though neither of his children understand this.

Soissons commits suicide by hanging; Frère and Alice discover the nude body. They decide the body must be buried, but Alice declares they need a coffin and takes Mr. Soissons' horse to the village, where she has never been before. As she rides the horse, she feels sexually stimulated, until she comes across a church in congregation. Drawn in by the music, she leads her horse into the building, where the attendees and priest react with shock and anger. They drag her out, and force her to reveal that Mr. Soissons is dead, and that he had two "sons", one of whom is her. When she bites the priest's hand, he angrily orders her taken away. Several men take her to a barn and tie her to a pole. One of the churchgoers, a young man named Paul-Marie, then enters and unties her, tells her she is female, and notices she is pregnant. Paul-Marie tells her the villagers will come to the house since they know Mr. Soissons is dead, and that Alice will likely be confined to an orphanage or convent.

Alice returns to the house to warn Frère that the villagers will come, believing they are evil, and finds Frère trying to dismember their father's body to bury it. Frère picks up a rifle and declares himself the new master of the domain; Alice tells him to feel her belly, as she has experienced quickening. She then goes to the shed, where she frees Juste, a scarred and mute woman. Alice tells Juste she has learned where life comes from. Paul-Marie arrives to warn Alice and Frère that the priest, coroner, pathologist and armed police are marching to the property. Frère chases Paul-Marie off the land with his rifle, but Alice climbs onto Paul-Marie's motorcycle as they attempt to escape. Frère fires his weapon, killing Paul-Marie and causing the motorcycle to crash.

The villagers capture and restrain Frère while Alice stands over Juste with an ax. Alice gathers her belongings and goes back into the house, where she finds a charred corpse she refers to as Mama. As Alice's water breaks, she flashes back to a little girl playing with a sparkler as a girl, in the presence of her mother. When the sparkler runs out, the first girl's young sister picked up matches and lit one, accidentally igniting the dress of the first girl. The mother attempted to save the girl, but also caught fire. The father rushed in and attempted to put out the fire on his daughter, leaving his wife to burn. In the present, Alice lights matches again and proceeds to burn the house down. In labour, she wanders into the forest, where she gives birth and clutches her child.



Actor Role
Marine Johnson ... Alice
Antoine L'Écuyer ... Frère
Jean-François Casabonne [fr] ... Mr. Soissons
Alex Godbout ... Paul-Marie
Laurie Babin ... Juste

Soucy's novel The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches was published in 1998 and later had an international publication in 20 languages before the adaptation.[4] While many producers considered the novel a poor choice for basing a film on, producer Marcel Giroux asked director Simon Lavoie if he would be interested in such a project in 2013; Lavoie claimed to be a fan of the novel and accepted the offer.[5] On 26 April 2016, Telefilm Canada announced $17 million in grants for 17 projects, including the adaptation to be directed by Lavoie, based on his screenplay.[6]

Lavoie said he met with Soucy to discuss ideas before Soucy died in 2013.[5] Lavoie described the story as a poetic drama about life before the Quiet Revolution, a time of sexual repression and numerous religious and social issues.[7] In his adaptation, much of the dialogue was rewritten, with Lavoie explaining "What stayed with me about the novel 15 years later wasn't the book's language ... That's often the first thing people bring up about this particular novel — it’s very particular, very baroque language. What had actually stayed with me were the characters and the particular poetry of the situation."[8]


Filming took place in Saint-Faustin, Quebec.

Principal photography commenced on 4 September 2016.[4] The story is set in agricultural areas of Quebec in the 1930s.[9] To depict this setting, filming took place in Montreal and Saint-Faustin, Quebec in the Laurentides.[4][10]

Cinematographer Nicolas Canniccioni and Lavoie and chose to shoot in black and white, with Canniccioni employing a Red Epic Monochrome 6K camera.[11] Art director Marjorie Rhéaume also selected colours in designing the sets that would reflect well in this photography.[11]


The film's world premiere took place at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017.[12] It was screened at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, rather than in the same larger Winter Garden theatre as Lavoie's previous film Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves, which won Best Canadian Film.[7]

A release in Quebec theatres was then scheduled for 3 November,[13] and the first trailer was publicized in August 2017, revealing the black and white photography and hinting at intense themes.[14] It opened in Montréal, Trois-Rivières, Pont-Viau, Longueuil and Boucherville on 3 November.[3] Seville International sold international distribution rights, with Gravitas Ventures buying for the United States.[15][16] Gravitas Ventures prepared a Blu-ray for a Region A release on 20 March 2018.[17]


Critical reception[edit]

Norman Wilner, writing for Now, assessed the film as "a gripping story", citing Johnson as "riveting ... At times animalistic, at times tender and ethereal, she's whatever the role requires".[18] Odile Tremblay wrote in Le Devoir that the adaptation would appeal to fans of the novel, and the deceased Soucy would have accepted the interpretation.[19] For The Canadian Press, David Friend called it "viscerally unsettling".[20] The Hollywood Reporter's Boyd van Hoeij declared "this is art house fare that's challenging but also rewarding".[21] Marc-André Lussier awarded it three and a half stars in La Presse, positively reviewing the style.[22] Le Devoir critic François Lévesque described it as oddly beautiful.[23]

In December, TIFF named the film to its annual year-end list of the ten best Canadian films.[24] In March for The Martlet, John Ledingham declared it "not a film for the faint of heart" but in which some viewers may find "something sublime in a suffering timeless and universal".[25] For" On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 83% based on six reviews.[26]


At TIFF, the film received an honorable mention for the Award for Best Canadian Film.[27] At the 6th Canadian Screen Awards, it received seven nominations, among the five films to receive the most nominations with eight or seven each.[28] While diversity was a theme of the ceremony, it was noted as among the Quebec films that lost in major categories.[29]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Canadian Screen Awards 11 March 2018 Best Motion Picture Marcel Giroux Nominated [30]
Best Adapted Screenplay Simon Lavoie Nominated
Best Actor Antoine L'Écuyer Nominated
Best Actress Marine Johnson Nominated
Best Cinematography Nicolas Canniccioni Nominated
Best Art Direction / Production Design Marjorie Rhéaume Nominated
Best Visual Effects Marc Hall, Jonathan Cyr, Emmanuel Bazin, Clément Natiez, Emmanuelle Gill Nominated
Prix Iris 3 June 2018 Best Film Marcel Giroux Nominated [31]
Revelation of the Year Marine Johnson Nominated
Best Cinematography Nicolas Canniccioni Nominated
Best Editing Aube Foglia Nominated
Best Art Direction Marjorie Rhéaume Nominated
Best Costume Design Francesca Chamberland Nominated
Best Visual Effects Marc Hall, Jonathan Cyr, Emmanuel Bazin, Clément Natiez, Emmanuelle Gill Nominated
Best Sound Clovis Gouaillier, Philippe Lavigne, Patrice LeBlanc Nominated
Best Hairstyling Denis Parent Nominated
Toronto International Film Festival 7 – 17 September 2017 Best Canadian Film Honorable Mention Simon Lavoie Won [27]


  1. ^ "Début du tournage du film La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes". Ici Radio-Canada. 9 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Gravestock, Steve. "The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b "La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes". Tribute. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Début du tournage du film "La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes"". The Huffington Post. 26 July 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b Demers, Maxime (28 October 2017). "Un roman culte porté au grand écran". Le Journal de Montreal. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Telefilm Canada funds the production of 17 French-language films for a total of more than $17 million". Telefilm Canada. 26 April 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b Petrowski, Nathalie (14 September 2017). "La petite fille... pour cinéphiles avertis". La Presse. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  8. ^ Rose, Alex (31 October 2017). "Controversial filmmaking and a contemporary Quebec-lit hit". Cult MTL. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  9. ^ Ahearn, Victoria (31 August 2017). "A look at some Canadian titles at the Toronto International Film Festival". The Canadian Press. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  10. ^ Labbé, Francis (10 June 2016). "Le dernier X-Men tourné en partie dans cette maison d'Oka". Radio-Canada. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  11. ^ a b Hervé, Jean-Baptiste (2 November 2017). "La Petite Fille Qui Aimait Trop Les Allumettes : Prendre L'univers En Main". Voir. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  12. ^ "La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes présenté en première mondiale au TIFF". Ici Radio-Canada. 9 August 2017.
  13. ^ "L'adaptation de "La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes" au TIFF". La Presse. 9 August 2017. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  14. ^ Guay, Edouard (9 August 2017). "Une Première Bande-Annonce Pour Le Nouveau Film De Simon Lavoie". Voir. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  15. ^ Kay, Jeremy (3 November 2017). "Seville strikes deals on 'The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond Of Matches', 'The Ashram' (exclusive)". Screen Daily. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  16. ^ Hipes, Patrick (3 November 2017). "'Confessions Of An Eco-Terrorist' Sequel Sets Sail; Saban Films & Mongrel Media Pact For Canada; More – AFM Briefs". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  17. ^ "The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches". High-Def Digest. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  18. ^ Wilner, Norman (14 September 2017). "The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond Of Matches". Now. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  19. ^ Tremblay, Odile (12 September 2017). "Un éblouissement signé Guillermo del Toro au TIFF". Le Devoir. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  20. ^ Friend, David (16 September 2017). "Five to watch: Standout TIFF films that flew under the radar". The Canadian Press. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  21. ^ van Hoeij, Boyd (15 September 2017). "'The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches' ('La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes'): Film Review, TIFF 2017". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  22. ^ Lussier, Marc-André (3 November 2017). "La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes: les enfants sauvages ***1/2". La Presse. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  23. ^ Lévesque, François (4 November 2017). ""La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes" - Horreur bucolique". Le Devoir. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Canada's Top Ten has some glaring omissions". Now. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  25. ^ Ledingham, John (4 March 2018). "Victoria Film Festival: The horror of darkness". The Martlet. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  26. ^ "The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  27. ^ a b Wilner, Norman (17 September 2017). "TIFF 2017: And The Winners Are ..." Now. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  28. ^ The Canadian Press (16 January 2018). "Canadian Screen Awards 2018: Anne has leading 13 nominations". CBC News. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  29. ^ Smith, Charlie. "Maudie, Kim's Convenience, Ava, Alias Grace, and Rumble among major winners at Canadian Screen Awards". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  30. ^ "Film Nominees". Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  31. ^ "Finalistes Gala 2018". Prix Iris. 10 April 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.

External links[edit]