M’entends-tu?, a Montreal Must-Watch
By Benjamin Wexler
February is hibernation time. Hopefully, the city will still be here when I emerge. For now, my longing for a Montreal summer is eased by season 2 of M’entends-tu?/ Can You Hear Me? The Télé-Québec series began airing in 2018, but I fell in love with it during a summer in lockdown. The newest season arrived on Netflix in November, solidifying the show as my highlight of 2020 television and a uniquely rough, loving, and poignant depiction of this city.
As the title suggests, M’entends-tu? portrays the lives of people who are not normally heard from, certainly not on television. Three friends, Ada, Fabiola, and Carolanne, deal with the daily challenges of life and poverty. Netflix calls it a “Social Issues TV Drama,” but it does not feel like a show about social issues — it is a show about three young women who happen to live through what we awkwardly label social issues. In between grocery store visits and therapy sessions, there is domestic violence, substance abuse, housing insecurity, and death.
The mood can shift from mundane to tragic to hilarious in the span of a few shots, and you won’t question it for a moment. Great performances across the board help with this emotional versatility. Florence Longpré, also one of the show’s creators, is the centrepiece as Ada — loveable, loyal, angry, horny, irreverent. Mélissa Bédard and Ève Landry are equally convincing as the talented, kind Fabiola and bookish Carolanne, respectively.
Sincere writing and idiosyncratic editing contribute to the quick, clever, and awkward pacing. The show is obviously stylized yet eminently believable, capturing a “small world” feel familiar to any Montrealer. Just as you recognize The Word Bookstore, where one character works, she recognizes the police officer walking in on the hunt for a picture book for his toddler.
Don’t forget to listen carefully; whether characters are performing on the street, singing along at the bar, or working in a choir, music is integral. Appropriately, the soundtrack is killer. Jai Paul’s “BTSTU,” Leonard Cohen’s “It Seemed Better That Way,” and Les Trois Accords’ “Le Bureau du medicin” are just a few of the songs used to memorable effect.
As excellent as season 1 is, season 2 improves on it in almost every conceivable way. There is a noticeable increase in production value, although the show never loses its homespun feel. Each character from previous seasons plays a satisfying and evolved role. The writing tightens up — every scene is spontaneous yet indispensable — and the 10 episodes link together so neatly you might as well be watching a movie. Flashbacks to the girls as preteens are an especially brilliant touch, emphasizing the conditions they grew up in, their character development, the complexity of their relationships, and the smallness of their world.
Next time you’re on Netflix, take 20 minutes and give it a try. It’s not just that M’entends-tu? is great television for Montrealers. It is great television in almost every way…and Montrealers happen to have unique linguistic and cultural access to it. We’re damn lucky.
The third season of M’entends-tu? / Can You Hear Me? will be available through Télé-Québec as of 23 March 2021