Aline is Valérie Lemercier’s love letter to Céline Dion


ALINE directed by Valérie Lemercier, written by Lemercier and Brigitte Buc. A levelFILM release. 128 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (February 18) at the Fox. 

Back in the mid-1990s, a fellow French theatre actor told Valérie Lemercier that she looked a lot like Céline Dion. At the time, Lemercier wasn’t familiar with the pop star, who was beginning her stratospheric international rise.

Little did Lemercier know that some 25 years later she would be co-writing, directing and starring in a movie inspired by the life of the Canadian icon. 

Aline, described as “a fiction freely inspired by the life of Céline Dion,” tells the story of Aline Dieu, a precocious Quebec-born singer (the last of 14 kids) with a golden voice who would grow up to marry her manager and conquer the world, all while staying loyal to her big family. 

“I’m a huge fan now,” says Lemercier, on a Zoom call to promote Aline, which was a hit at Cannes and got a successful fall release in Europe. She especially likes the French song Je Sais Pas and power ballad The Power Of Love, neither of which made it into the film. 

While she could have put many familiar French actors in the film – something her producing partners would have liked – she insisted on casting Quebecois talent.

“That was essential,” she said. “We had to believe these people and this story.”

Another big choice she made was deciding to play Aline at all ages, even as a young child. 

“That’s not my old face on someone’s young body,” she says, laughing. “I’m playing the young Aline with my body in front of a green screen, and they’ve resized me. And sometimes it’s simpler. In school scenes, I’m sitting at a huge desk and so seem small.” 

This wasn’t simply an arbitrary decision, or something done for the camp appeal. 

“I wanted to play the young girl with the [crooked] teeth, I didn’t want to give it to someone else to play,” she says. “I’m like a lawyer defending her client. I wanted to present her in all stages of her life.” 

I ask whether this decision was made to make Aline’s future relationship with her much-older manager, Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel), more palatable and less icky. 

“Sylvain and I were both 55 during the shooting,” says Lemercier. “He’s actually younger than me by three months. The love story happens when Aline is 20, and at 20 you can kiss who you want.” 

In fact, Lemercier sees the entire movie as a love story: between a mother (Aline’s mother Sylvette is played by the wonderful Danielle Fichaud) and her child, between brothers and sisters and between Aline and Guy-Claude.  

The movie’s Aline, like the real Dion, keeps her siblings close to her, even in her professional life. 

“I think that gives her stability,” says Lemercier. “A normal person would go totally crazy living such a life. I have three sisters, and whether something good or bad happens, they’re always there to keep me grounded. I think Aline’s family gives her that same kind of stability.”

While Lemercier has Dion’s stage gestures down pat, she’s not lip-synching to actual Céline recordings. The songs were all reinterpreted and recorded by Victoria Sio.

“I didn’t want to imitate Céline, and I didn’t want Victoria to imitate her either,” says Lemercier. “She put herself in all the songs, even the ones that the 12-year-old Aline sings. Listening to her [renditions] helped me create the role.” 

At the time of our interview, Dion herself hadn’t seen the film, although she gave her blessing to the project. And she said the filmmaker got at least one detail right. 

“She said the shoes were good,” says Lemercier. “That was a very important detail.”




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