If you're going to make a war movie about one of the darkest periods
in Canadian history and try to sell it as a love story, it helps to
have a character the audience can fall in love with.
Enter Caroline Dhavernas.
She's the one in the blood-stained apron and white nurse's cap,
cradling the injured soldier's cheek, staring deep into his eyes as he
lies wounded on a gurney.
She's the one whose love scene with the soldier, played by Paul
Gross, is so steamy they could've called the movie Passion-daele.
She's the one who cries for her lover at the end, pouring cold
water on us and reminding us that Passchendaele, which opens in
theatres tomorrow, is indeed a gut-wrenching war movie, based on the
bloody First World War battle against the Germans on a muddy
battlefield in Belgium, where 5,000 Canadians lost their lives.
It's a movie Gross made to pay homage to those soldiers -- and
to his grandfather, Michael Dunne, a war veteran who bears the same
name as the character played by Gross.
But thanks to Dhavernas, the pretty but unassuming francophone
from Montreal, it's also a war movie guys can take their girlfriends
"She is simply and completely a beautiful actress --
exceptionally generous and incapable of dishonesty," said Gross, a
pretty handsome devil himself. "Her Sarah is everything I had hoped for
and more -- she is the emotional heartbeat of the story."
Lofty praise for a 30-year-old actress whose previous most high-profile role was on the short-lived Fox TV series Wonderfalls.
Passchendaele could be the big break she's been waiting for since she started acting at age eight.
"What I liked most about this love story is that they're both
broken and she, specifically, I think, has given up on love," Dhavernas
said during a recent visit to Ottawa.
"I think they both give each other courage to get through this
horrible moment in history together. That, to me, is very inspiring,
how love can give you courage and strength."
Even though she's been acting as long as she can remember, she's still getting used to seeing herself on the big screen.
"Most of the time I'm happy with what I see," she said. "But you
do watch yourself, you see everything you hate about yourself, you see
things you're okay with."
Including her nude love scene with Gross?
"It depends on who's in the room with me," she said with a
laugh. "I haven't seen it with my parents yet, but they're fine,
they're both actors. I've seen them do a few romantic love scenes.
"We're all used to it, I guess. I have no problem with love
scenes when they're part of the movie and help tell the story. It's
when they're gratuitous and useless, that I don't want to be part of