Emporte Moi (Set Me Free): Lea Pool’s French-Canadian Coming-Out Tale (LGBTQ Lesbian Cinema)

Lea Pool’s French-Canadian film, Set Me Free (French: Emporte-moi) stars Karine Vanasse as a girl struggling with her sexuality as she goes through puberty in Quebec circa 1963.

Heavily inspired by Jean-Luc Godard French seminal new-wave, Vivre sa vie (Living Her Life), the film was named best Canadian feature by the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Hanna is living on a farm with her grandparents and mentally handicapped uncle.  The onset of puberty–getting her first period–and her grandmother’s lack of emotional support motivate her to return to her parents in Montreal.

Hanna resumes her relationships with her dysfunctional family: her depressed mother (who later attempts suicide), her erratic father, and her brother, who is usually absent from home.

Hanna’s mother, a fashion designer, has put aside her artistic dreams in order to devote her time to supporting her husband, an unpublished writer.

Distant and erratic, her father gets a job working for a newspaper, but soon quits his post, spending his time playing chess, while lying to his wife that he is working.

Hanna is fascinated with Anna Karina’s character in Godard’s film Vivre sa vie–during multiple viewings she imitates that star’s behavior and mannerisms.

Gradually, she becomes aware of her true sexuality, manifest in her crush on a female teacher, and later a kiss with classmate Laura at a school dance.

Hanna attempts to set Laura up with Paul, an excuse to camouflage her attraction to Laura.  Soon, the trio engage in a Spin the Bottle game that threatens to reveal some hidden facts..

Hanna then decides to experiment with being a prostitute, just like her idol Anna Karina in Godard’s film, but at the very last moment, she changes her mind.  However, the man involved refuses to back out, and forces himself on her.

Things change when Hannah’s mother returns to home, and Hannah finds a new way to express herself, using a film camera lent to her by her teacher.


If you want to know more about gay directors and gay films, please read my book:

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, hardcover and paperback).