“A Shade of Grey“, a 2013 short film by Hervé Demers, is a coming-of-age story about loss, the continuum of youth, and the subtle trickle of emotions that comes after a calamity. In a rural town in Quebec, nine-year-old Noémy enjoys the pastoral lifestyle of a family farm, where she and her family tends to a herd of alpacas that they raise for wool. Life seems idyllic and routine, but the forces of nature prove to be too strong to be contained.
An essential aspect of the film and the story that it tells is its depiction of routine; Noémy wakes up early in the morning to feed the livestock, and then goes off to school with her siblings. This regularity, it seems, is crucial to the dismantlement of normalcy and the shock of mortality when a rupture does occur: it shatters the illusion of a state of perpetual life, and introduces a significant change of reality to the young girl.
There is another theme explored, in tandem with the first, and it is the human need and desire to construct a space that maintains a faux control of experience, as a mean to sustain the artifice of human living. In spite of all efforts to contain the life that the family co-exists with, there is an inability to alter the base instincts of animals, and it is this intrusion which ultimately informs Noémy of this construction, and perhaps the inevitability of death, as an impermanent being herself.
Fashioned as a statement of corporeality, “A Shade of Grey” could be interpreted, to some extent, as a reflection of humanity’s attempt to defy transience. In erecting a facade of continuity and exercising a dominion over the wilderness, this constructed reality constitutes as a way to have a modicum of authority over the natural cycles of life, an inescapable verity which the young has to contend with.