Prayer for a Lost Mitten (Prière pour une Mitaine Perdue) (2020)

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I’m not sure what I was expecting with this low-key Canadian documentary by Jean-François Lesage that uses the lost and found office at the Montreal metro as a jumping off point for a meditation on loss. From the first bleak and beautiful scene of snow falling against a night sky as a clarinet mournfully plays, you know this is going to be about more than a lost mitten.

At first we see only the lost and found office window as various people come in search of something valuable they have left behind on a bus or dropped on a train. They tell little stories and it is a moment of connection, intertwined with disappointment or joy. We never see the item but we hear the person describe it and what it means to them. There is the woman who lost her handmade tuque (a Canadian beanie) and she can’t explain why it means so much to her other than that it was the best she’d ever made. Another woman searches for her pink binder, a man for his keys.

The film begins to journey out from the metro and we observe people in their homes, talking with each other and to camera about the same question – what have you lost that you wished you could find? For some it is love, or youth, a partner or a family’s warmth. Young people discuss love, when to declare it, what it means and what their future might be like. An older man talks of the partner he has unexpectedly lost and his guilt and sorrow at surviving.

In between these intimate moments are slow, sonorous scenes where we watch the snow blanketing the city. Snow ploughs move through the darkness, people shovel snow, huddle beneath awnings protected only by alcohol and bravado and jog down empty night time streets. It creates a tableau of loneliness but also of human toil and community. And there is a beautiful light moment of song that brings these disparate characters together into something akin to a prayer.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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