From Quebec to Hollywood

Olivier Pilon
3 min readDec 31, 2021


The well-renowned movie director, Jean-Marc Vallée, passed away on Christmas Day.

The famous Quebec movie director, Jean-Marc Vallée, on the set of Café de Flore. Productions Café de Flore / Monkey Pack Films.

I had just come out. A university friend of mine suggested I watch C.R.A.Z.Y., a coming-of-age movie about love and acceptance. Next thing you know, we were looking at it at the University of Ottawa Pride Centre after our classes with other members of the LGBT community.

It wasn’t just francophones who were interested in the artwork, but also anglophones who barely spoke French; they were initially intrigued by the storyline.

The movie is about a gay man in the 1970s who is trying to make sense of his sexuality and everything that goes with it. What complicates things is that the main character is growing up in a religious household with a dad that has lots of misconceptions about what it means to be gay.

The Quebec classic won a total of 11 Genie Awards, celebrating the best Canadian movies.

I discovered the Quebec director because of C.R.A.Z.Y. This feature film was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how talented he was. Throughout his multiple films, he was able to capture the spectrum of emotion and bring them to life. Saying he was talented is undermining his creativity. He was lots more; using his life experiences to bring scenarios to the open. Vallée made us enjoy what we are going through as humans on this earth; making us laugh, think and cry along the way. Like all of us, he was an artist performing his art, filmmaking, while always remaining humble. With his passion, he was able to make masterpieces. That is a good lesson we should take examples from.

From what actors and people in the business were saying: he used a naturalist approach to make his films, embracing imperfection. He also had a humanist approach, giving place to lots of positive feedback to motivate the crew and actors.

In his last films, Vallée put women at the forefront of the stories. We can say he is quite a pioneer on this matter, as well as exploring a big set of subjects that are worth talking about.

Born in Montreal in 1963, Jean-Marc Vallée reached for the stars. After studying cinema at the University of Montreal, he directed his first movie, Liste Noire, in 1995.

He didn’t limit himself to where he was from, a little bit like Céline Dion did in the music world. He worked in the biggest movie market in the entire world, Hollywood, with the biggest names in cinema, including Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal.

He passed away at only 58 years old in a cottage in Berthier-sur-Mer, from a heart attack according to the first reports. As a director, he was in the shadow of actors. But his work never went unnoticed.

When the sad news was made public on December 27, the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, as well as Canada’s prime minister didn’t wait too long to honour him on social media.

Premier Legault honoring the artist. Twitter
Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, sent his condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Vallée. Twitter

Most recently, Vallée was recognized across the US and the globe for Big Little Lies, which is about a group of women being embroiled in a murder investigation with all the twists and turns that go with it. The composition of the cast members is nothing less of impressive. He won an Emmy for this series.

Dallas Buyers Club, which he also directed, earned multiple Oscar nominations.



Olivier Pilon

Graduated with a masters degree in politics from the University of Quebec in Montreal. Human rights, LGBT issues, sports and music. Twitter: @OlivierPilon