Alice Bradley (Pascale BussiPres) is a bitter and ambitious seismologist who works in Japan studying the warning signs of earthquakes. One such sign has just occurred in her hometown of Baie-Comeau, Quebec – the tides have stopped completely – and she returns to investigate. But Alice has no sense of the wider spiritual significance of what she finds. The town has come unhinged and odd behaviour abounds: a young Chinese girl sleepwalks every night at exactly the same time; a woman chops down every tree in her front yard; the phone number of a mysterious fire-fighting pilot named Marc Vandal (Jean-Nicolas Verreault) has been ripped out of every phone book in town. It’s also unseasonably hot and humid in the small community and the halted tides have given the entire town a curious odour. "It smells like sex," one of the characters explains.
The no-nonsense Alice gets pulled into a web of desire and longing. She buys a refrigerated truck in which to take refuge from the heat, then begins to discover her own internal landscape. As a Japanese proverb reminds us, when we return to the place of our birth, we come closer to death – and, the film might add, to the ebb and flow of life. Running from a troubled past and consumed by loneliness, Alice must face not only the problem of the tides, but her growing involvement with Vandal and the not-so-subtle advances of her journalist friend Catherine (Julie Gayet). When Alice uncovers the film's central mystery, the investigation turns away from science to the world of spirit, achieving a resolution of surprising power.
A sly and sharply whimsical mixture of unconventional detective story, subtle, sensual romance, and mystical science-fiction tale, La Turbulence des fluides is a tribute to forces beyond our control and looks at the power of will and fate in strongly cinematic terms. Alternately eerie, magical and passionate, the film gracefully explores both personal and natural disasters. The film’s imagery is utterly seductive and evocative, governed by its own internal logic. Highly engaging performances from Pascale BussiPres, Jean-Nicolas Verreault and GeneviPve Bujold (as the owner of the local diner) all produce clear, vivid characters whose fates weave tightly together. With a unique central image reminiscent of metaphysical poetry, Briand creates an absorbing and compelling paradox: the discovery of self in the vast and the eternal – in the limitless expanse of the sea.
A big success in Quebec, where it opened to rave reviews, La Turbulence des fluides won a Special Award at the 2003 Jutra Awards and audiences voted it the Best Canadian Film at the 2002 Montreal World Film Festival. It was also named one of Canada’s Top Ten of 2002 by an independent, national panel of filmmakers, programmers, journalists and industry professionals assembled by the Toronto International Film Festival Group®.